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

Make It A Spring

Sometimes we walk through a season of life that feels like a wilderness. Barren, lonely, forsaken. We might even feel like this is the end. That things are hopeless.

That’s where Elijah was when he fled Jezebel. He went out in the wilderness, sat by a tree, and asked God to let him die. Instead, God gave him food and water and sent him to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:1-8). There, Elijah made his complaint. “Then he said, ‘I have been very zealous for Yahweh the God of hosts, for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have demolished your altars, and they have killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left over, and they seek to take my life'” (1 Kings 19:10, LEB).

Yahweh responds by showing His power, reassuring Elijah that he was not the only believer left, and giving him a job to do (1 Kings 19:11-18). Elijah thought things were hopeless but God had other ideas. He had a plan for Elijah and an even larger plan Elijah didn’t know about.

click to read article, "Make It A Spring" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo Credit: “Spring Runoff” by Ian Sane, CC BY via Flickr

Transforming Your Wilderness

For all of us, it’s easy to feel like we’re insignificant to God’s plan. But no one is too small for God to do marvelous things with. In fact, God often chooses the poor, weak, and little because those are the ones easiest for Him to work powerfully in (1 Cor. 1:26-31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10)

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. (Is 41:17, KJV)

Read more

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

Thirst

I woke up this morning and reached for my water bottle. It wasn’t there, of course, since today is Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and we started fasting last night as the sun set. What struck me was how automatic the gesture was — I always have a bottle of water nearby, and grabbing it when I feel thirsty is almost unconscious.

So I asked myself, “Do I long for God the way I crave water when fasting?” Jesus called Himself the “living water.” Just as we need water to survive physically, so we need Him to survive spiritually. And yet somehow, I don’t think we are as attentive about drinking Him in as we are physical water. We should keep Him even closer than I usually keep my water bottle, and turn to Him at every reminder just like we take a drink whenever our throats feel a bit dry.

Thirst | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: [cipher], CC BY-SA, via Flickr
The Jews consider Yom Kippur the most solemn and holy day of the entire year, and I’m inclined to agree with them. This isn’t to belittle any of the other holy days or the weekly Sabbath, but God does seem to put a special importance on this day. For one thing, it’s the only day when He strictly specifies “you shall do no work at all.” The other holy days are also days of rest, but He uses a different phrase for that: “you shall do no customary work” or “No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you.”

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” (Lev. 23:26-32)

On the Day of Atonement, everything stops. We stop eating, we stop drinking, and we stop doing any work. Usually, my morning routine goes like this: pray, feed fish, make breakfast, read a book, Bible study, yoga, then start working. On the Sabbaths, I usually only do the first three and then head off for per-services dance practice. But today, the only thing I have to think about is thirsting after God. I took a minute to feed the aquarium fish, but that’s it. I don’t have to worry about making breakfast or scheduling my day. I can listen to Hillsong music, pray, study, and turn my thoughts into this impromptu blog post.

I wonder if my younger self would have believed she’d learn to look forward to the Day of Atonement. Fasting doesn’t make me terribly ill, but it’s not really easy for me either, and I often thought of it as something we just had to get through before the Feast of Tabernacles. But, God be praised, I’m starting to learn more about how amazing this day is and why He considers it so important.

I pray each of you has a blessed, refreshing Yom Kippur that draws you closer to God.

G'mar Chatimah Tovah -- traditional greeting for this season. Literally," A good final sealing" or idiomatically, "May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good"
G’mar Chatimah Tovah — traditional Hebrew greeting for this season. Literally,” A good final sealing” or idiomatically, “May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for good”

Beginning To Walk

We’re up to week 4 out of 7 in the count to Pentecost, and deep in a study about the Holy Spirit. The reason I wrote last week’s post explaining my beliefs about the Holy Spirit was so I could better write an exploration of what the Holy Spirit does and is used for by God. There is much to cover, so this will probably spill over into at least one more post.

Baptism

When John the Baptist was preaching and answering questions about the water baptism he was performing, he spoke of a greater Baptist who would baptize in something greater than water.

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt. 3:11)

"Begining To Walk" by marissabaker.wordpress.comMy Dad has an excellent series of posts on his blog (starting with this one) dealing with the ongoing baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you’re interested, click over there and check them out. Here, though, I’m going to focus on just a small aspect of this baptism.

Just as water is the medium of our physical baptisms, so is the Holy Spirit the substance with which Jesus Christ baptizes us. Fittingly, then, the Spirit is compared to “rivers of living water” in John 7:37-39 and is said to be poured out in Isaiah 44:3. The Spirit is something we can be immersed in, and which works a real change in us.

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

Being born into God’s family takes time and is an ongoing process. The starting point is when God’s Spirit begins interacting with our spirits and opening our minds to understand His mind.

Family

God’s calling goes beyond a mental awakening, though. The interaction of His Spirit with us changes our entire way of life.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (Rom. 8:5-7)

The Holy Spirit is essential for us to even be capable of keeping God’s laws. Without God’s Spirit essence present and working in us with power, we “cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8) and we could not be part of His family.

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Rom. 8:12-17)

From these verses, we learn that it is the presence of God’s Spirit in us that makes us His children. This comes as a result of Christ’s indwelling presence (Rom. 8:9-11). Two weeks ago, we read parts of John 14, 15, and 16 and talked about how the Holy Spirit acts as Christ’s representative on earth and in us. Through the Spirit, He and God the Father dwell in us and work directly with our innermost being.

 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)

Worship

So, we see Jesus baptizing us with the Holy Spirit to begin a process of making us part of God’s family. Both the Father and Christ then work in us through Their Spirit to change our hearts and minds to bring us into fellowship with Them.

For through Him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:18-22)

"Begining To Walk" by marissabaker.wordpress.comWhen God’s Spirit dwells in us, we become His temple (1 Cor. 3:16). It is our responsibility to live in a way that glorifies “God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)

We can’t truly worship God unless we are doing so in our spirits — in the part of us that is immaterial and given by God. The interaction between our spirits and God’s Spirit must go both ways. He cannot work in us unless we respond to Him in spirit and in truth. As Matthew Henry said in his commentary on Romans 8:26, “We must not sit still, and expect that the Spirit should do all; when the Spirit goes before us we must bestir ourselves. We cannot without God, and he will not without us.”

This is just the beginning, my friends. Once God starts to communicate with our spirits, and we respond to Him, we begin a journey toward being part of His family. And His presence — His Holy Spirit — is there with us every step of the way.

Be A Well of Water

I talked about Christ’s meeting with the woman at the well last week. This week, I’d like to focus on a specific verse from that interaction:

But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4.14)

Jesus told the woman that once He gives someone the gift of living water, they continue to receive a steady supply. We learn more about this a few chapters later.

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Here, we are clearly told this water is the Holy Spirit, and shown that the fountain Jesus spoke of in John 4 isn’t a tiny trickle that supplies just enough water for the person He gives it to — it is enough to supply a river that flows out from people who Christ is working with.

Don’t Stagnate

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit[b] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. As I talked about on Monday, we all need outlets to keep from becoming stagnate. We have to share what we have been given. The Holy Spirit is supposed to be flowing through us an manifesting as fruits borne in our lives. “By this My Father is glorified,” Jesus said, “that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-25)

To briefly re-cap the analogy from Monday’s post, the Sea of Galilee is a source of freshwater because it has both an inflow and an outflow. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, has no outlet and is filled with brackish water. We are like that too. We either flow with Christ’s living water, or we become dead. We can’t be both alive and hoarding God’s gifts all to ourselves — “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” (James 3:11).

Flowing With Life

"Become A Well" by marissabaker.wordpress.comIn 2 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy that he needs to “stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” because “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). A similar admonition is given to the whole church: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thes. 5:19). There is a very real danger if we do not use the talents that God had given us (Matt. 25:14-20).

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:2)

We do not want to be the ones that the Father prunes out of the True  Vine for lack of fruit. We are to become more and more skillful “in the word of righteousness” and at some point grow to the point that we can “be teachers” (Heb. 5:12-14). We need  to learn this now, because in the future the Church will be teaching alongside Jesus Christ as His bride, living and working with the One who promises, “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Rev. 21:6).

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. (Rev. 22:1)

If we don’t become a well of water now, overflowing with God’s spirit and the fruts thereof, we will not be included in the inhabitants of the city that flows with God’s living water.