Water, Spirit, Fire: The Three Baptisms of Christianity

How many times have you been baptized?

Scripture talks about baptism — full immersion in water — as a first step in believers’ walks of faith. It’s an outward sign of our identification with God’s people and our commitment to leave our old lives behind. Some church groups stop there, some sprinkle people from a baptismal instead, and Messianics continue to mikvah on a semi-regular basis.

I thought practicing mikvah once a year (more or less) was an odd idea when I started attending a Messianic group. Part of me still does, though I don’t really see anything wrong with it. However, while we are supposed to undergo water baptism at least once, it doesn’t stop there. When Scripture talks about multiple baptisms they’re not all done with water. Here’s what John the Baptist said about the baptism he was doing and the baptisms Messiah would do:

I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I am, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt. 3:11, LEB)

Water, spirit, and fire — those are the three baptisms that John tells us believers in Jesus will go through. I think this is what the writer of Hebrews means when he describes “the doctrine of baptisms” (plural) as a foundation of Christianity (Heb. 6:1-2). Read more

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The Foundation: Doctrine of Baptisms

The next “principle of the doctrines of Christ” listed in Hebrews 6 is “the doctrine of baptisms.” It builds on the previous two, but we already have a post on this blog talking about how repentance and belief are a prerequisite for baptism, so that’s not what we’ll focus on today.

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Heb. 6:1-3)

The Foundation: Doctrine of Baptisms | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Notice it says “baptisms,” plural. Why is that the case, especially in light of the “there is one body, and one spirit … one faith, one baptism” passage in Ephesians 4:4-5? Read more

Love On Fire

Sometimes, Bible study ideas can come from an unexpected source. One of the speakers at our Feast of Tabernacles site last month was a man whose messages rarely catch my attention, but he gave an excellent sermonette about falling in “true love” with God.

Though the holy days for this year are several weeks in the past, these subjects are relevant year-round. Since the Feast, or Sukkot, pictures Christ’s millennial reign, it’s also connected with the marriage to His church, which takes place a little earlier. We will be living and reigning with Jesus as His bride, teaching and serving alongside Him (Rev. 20:4). But first, we have to get there.

Love On Fire | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: Indi Samarajiva, CC BY via Flickr

True Love

God is love. it’s not just something God has like a person can have feelings of happiness or a sense of humor. Love (and the word is agape) is God. All real love — that selfless seeking of another’s good because you care about them so much — is of God.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)

When we’re filled with love, we’re filled with God’s essential character. “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). The opposite is true as well: it’s impossible to love God or abide in Him while harboring an attitude of hate (1 John. 4:20).

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. … If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:21, 23)

Love creates relationship with God. It’s also inseparably connected to commandment keeping — if we love God, we’ll live as He said to, thereby showing love for God. This results in a relationship Jesus described as “abiding in” Him and His Father, and Them in us.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:9-10)

Perfect love results in perfect unity — mutual indwelling like the Father and Jesus have together and want to share with us (John 17:21-23). God’s love is the only love that can build the kind of relationship that leads to eternity, and that’s why we have to keep sharing the same love we’re being given (John 13:34; 15:12).

Burning Love

We’ve spent quite a lot of time on this blog, and in my God’s Love Story ebook (which you can download free), talking about what God’s love is like. Our love for God and each other is supposed to be exactly like God’s love for us. It’s selfless, sacrificial love. it’s unabashed seeking of what is best for the beloved. It’s love shared between the best of friends. It’s the highest form of romantic love (non-sexual; we’re talking about agape, not eros).

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a flame of YAH. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised. (Song 8:6-7)

You might say these lovely verses from the Song of Songs are the Old Testament companion scripture to 1 Corinthians 13. Love is a fire fueled by YAH (which is a poetic form of YHWH usually hidden in English translations of this verse). Love like that can’t be put-out by anything the world throws at it, and it can’t be bought anymore than you can buy the holy spirit (Acts 8:18-21).

After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). He walked with them incognito and “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” After they were allowed to recognize Him over dinner and He “vanished out of their sight” these disciples make an interesting observation (which I’m indebted to the aforementioned sermonette for connecting with the subject of God’s love).

And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”(Luke 24:32)

They recognized that “burning hearts” was a sign of Jesus being alongside them. When we’re abiding in Him and walking in obedience, we will be filled with the unquenchable love of God like a burning fire.

The Greek word translated “burn” in Luke 24 can refer to a literal flame, but there are several other places in scripture where it’s used to describe a condition inside people (G2545, kaio). John the baptist was described as “the burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35). We’re told to be watchful servants and ordered, “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning (Luke 12:35). Kaio is also the word used when Jesus talks about us letting our lights shine like a burning lamp in the world (Matt. 5:14-16).

Love On Fire | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: Ashton, CC BY-SA, via Flickr

We need to let our lights, fueled by God’s love, burn so they can be seen. As we walk in the love of God, keeping His commandments and abiding in Him, unquenchable love should flow out from us to our brethren and neighbors.

Empathic Feeling

I realized Tuesday night when I was reading Fire by Kristin Cashore and crying into the bath water that I wasn’t crying because I felt sad a character had died. I was crying because someone in the book felt sad that this character had died. Once I thought about it, I realized that at least half of the times when fiction moves me to tears, it is in empathy with the characters rather than my own feelings being affected. In other words, I’m crying because the character is crying, not because of what moved the character to tears. Sometimes it is both (Ender’s Game, for example).

This feeling other people’s feelings (fictional and real) is something I didn’t have much of a grasp on until I discovered my Myers-Briggs type and started reading what other INFJs wrote about being overwhelmed with the emotions of others. Adding high sensitivity to the mix only heightens this (here is a wonderful article about Elaine Aaron’s research on the Highly Sensitive Person).

A Range of Empathy

The extent to which INFJs report feeling other people’s emotions range from an awareness of how others are reacting, to not being able to remember the last time you experienced a feeling that belonged only to you. “You feel it, I feel it,” an anonymous INFJ wrote. I may not be quite ready to claim my feeling of and for others reaches that extent, but I share her decision to try and avoid encountering strong negative emotions (e.g. a news story about child molestation, a film where a family is torn apart, real-life conflict) because of how overwhelming it is — emotionally as well as physically in terms of headaches and stomach pain.

Managing Feelings

In INFJ Coach’s series of blog posts on “10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life,” part two is “Manage Those Pesky Emotions.” Her article is mainly about dealing with our own emotions when they surface, but the comments point out that this is only part of the problem. One commenter named Jennie wrote that she asks herself,

“Is this my emotion that I’m feeling, or is it someone else’s emotion?’ Many of us INFJs are emotional sponges for the emotions that other people are feeling. Our NF gives us a very high degree of empathy, but sometimes taking on other people’s emotions can be too much to handle.

The other side to this is what INFJ writer Cheryl Florus points out in Personality Junkie’s INFJ Strategies for Dealing with Emotions: Part I. Because an INFJ’s feeling is extroverted, we often have an easier time understanding the emotions of other people than our own emotions (for more on function stacks, see this post). We feel emotions strongly, but need to make an effort to learn how to experience and express them in a way that doesn’t seem overwhelming or uncontrolled. Often, writing down or talking about our emotions is a way to get them outside us so we can look at them more objectively (I keep a journal and talk to my closest family members). Sometimes, until I’ve done this, I’m not exactly sure what it is I’m feeling, let alone how it should be expressed and dealt with.

What about you? Are you an INFJ with experience feeling other people’s feelings (or a non-INFJ who does the same thing, because I’d love to hear from you)? Or are you someone who has never had this happen and thinks we’re crazy?

Necessary Fire

I started this study intending to focus on the idea of Jesus Christ in us, but got distracted by the Greek word translated “reprobate” in 2 Corinthians 13:5. Digging into the root words, I found that it is a negative form of a word that refers to the process of refining metals with fire. Therefore, “reprobate” in this verse could be understood to mean someone who has not been refined by fire. Intriguing …

Untried Metals

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Cor. 13:5)

"Necessary Fire" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.comThe word “reprobate” is from the Greek adokimos (G96). It means “Unapproved, unworthy, spurious, worthless.” It is the negative form of dokimos (G1384), which means “Proved, receivable, tried as metals by fire and thus be purified. … Hence, to be approved as acceptable men in the furnace of adversity” (Zodhiates). Here are a few places it is used:

For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. (2 Cor. 10:18)

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)

So, we can say that to be “reprobate” means to be the opposite of approved and refined. It is someone who has not be proved by God and tried “as silver is tried” (Ps. 66:10). In several scriptures, our refinement is likened to the purification of metals, which must be heated in a furnace to remove impurities (Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:3). Being tested and proved is a necessary step in becoming acceptable.

Burning Buildings

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul writes about building our lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). He is the only foundation upon which we can build a proper Christian life. However, we each build with different materials, and with differing degrees of success.

"Necessary Fire" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.comNow if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Cor. 3:12-15)

Note that the people whose work endures and those who get burned down to the foundation both have to go through the trying fire. No one is excepted from being tried in the furnace of adversity. Some come through stronger. Some “suffer loss,” but are saved to begin building again with better materials. It is part of God’s plan for making us part of His family.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Heb. 12:7-8)

Without refinement and trials, we would be among those described as “reprobates” and bastards.” We need to be purified to be part of God’s family and to become a fit place for Jesus Christ to dwell.

A Habitation of God

In the verse following 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, we are told what type of building we are becoming. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). This is why we need to be refined. As we are now, we are not fit vessels to house God’s spirit and the presence of Jesus Christ. If we keep Their commandments and submit to Their work in our lives, though, we can be.

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (Jn. 14:23)

God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the habit of holding people at arm’s length. They desire a close, personal relationship with us. They want to dwell in us now, and they want us to literally be part of Their family in the future. The writer of Hebrews describes us as a house which is built by and belongs to Christ, “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6).

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)

One of our purposes on this earth is to be the place where God dwells. There was a time when He put His presence in a physical temple here on earth, and now He puts His presence inside the people He has chosen — a people refined in the furnace of adversity and approved by Him.

When I Am Weak

"When I Am Weak" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.comI hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My family gathered at my Uncle’s house for turkey, lots of mashed potatoes, euchre playing, and several enthusiastic Apples to Apples games that could probably have been heard by people driving by in their cars.

Today, I have another C.S. Lewis quote to share with you. As I think I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been reading The Problem of Pain. In chapter 6, he makes this statement: “tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.”

Comfortable Dirtiness

To put this statement in context, Lewis was talking about human tendency to only turn our attention to God when things are going badly in our lives. When we are scared or in pain, we rush to God and ask him to take it away and bring us through the trial. But all to often, we try our best to forget the thing that brought us back to God as soon as that prayer is answered.

God has had me for but forty-eight hours and then only by dint of taking everything else away from me. Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over — I shake myself dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed. And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.

We need our weaknesses and our sufferings to help bring us into God’s family. I did a search for the word “suffer” in the KJV, and found it used more than 50 times to refer to Christ’s suffering and/or the necessity of us following in His footsteps.

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29)

Importance of Fire

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

The analogy of a refining fire is one that is frequently used in scripture. Gold and silver are purified by fire (Zech. 13:9), pottery needs fired to give it strength (Is. 64:8). We tend often think of fire as a bad thing, perhaps because of the association with fiery punishment. But fire in the context of trials has a positive connotation. Even if the affects are unpleasant, the result should be us moving ever closer to glory.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)

God Hasn’t Given Up

There are two ways we can take the idea Lewis expresses when he says, “tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.” We can either get depressed and worn down by the realization that trials will not end until we are perfected, or we can look at trials as proof that God hasn’t given up on making us like Christ.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)