BTC – Phase 2 – Lesson 1
Baptism for the Spiritual Soul
Baptism for the Spiritual Soul
By Ann M. Wolf
“And so our BTC journey together begins, of learning to walk in Mercy as we rely on Grace, starting with our exploration of the beautiful and auspicious ceremony of Baptism, its aspects, its history, purpose, and meaning.” Ann M. Wolf
Baptism, a Beginning:
Origin of the word “Baptism”: One Greek word for Baptism is “Bautizo” which points to “being immersed/saturated,” or to “being identified with something,” which relates back to a time when cloth was dipped into a solution to “identify” with the color of the liquid. Therefore, Baptism is an experience we participate in as our token to God, representing our desire to be “identified” with Jesus.
Baptism marks the beginning of our new spiritual journey: The ceremony (of going in and out of the water) is an acknowledgment of the receiving of the Mercy of God and it is also the time when we offer our vow “to give the Mercy to others that has been given to us.” It is our signature, you could say, to this two-way agreement or contract between ourselves and the Lord, as we submit to Water Baptism. What comes next is, that Jesus gives us His signature via the Seal of the Holy Spirit with the second aspect of Baptism; and with two signatures, our Contract is made.
Right out of the gate here, you might be wondering, “Oh wait a minute Chaplain! Was taking a vow just mentioned, to extend the Mercy to others which has been given to us?
Yes, I did; and whether or not a declaration of commitment to extend Mercy to others is practiced today in contemporary Baptism ceremonies (in addition to the actual emersion in water), it is nonetheless, given to each of us who enter the Body of Christ to make that vow and then learn how to rely on Grace/The Spirit to help us in our resolve to keep that vow.
Thus we already see here, the first two Parts of Baptism mentioned in these opening remarks, the first being “Water” commemorating Mercy, and then the “Receiving of the Spirit,” acknowledging Grace. However, according to Scripture, the complete Christian Baptism includes the recognition of three aspects of Baptism (Water, Spirit, and Fire); so let’s begin.
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” Matthew 3:11 (KJV)
One Baptism with Three Elements:
Here is a brief overview of the three elements of Baptism which also happen to point to many of the aspects of the spiritual transformation process:
With the first element of Baptism (Water), we celebrate the receiving of the Mercy of God. As we “enter the water,” we also promise to render the Mercy unto others that has been given to us (as already mentioned), which includes how we characterize others. As God now sees us by our identity and association with Jesus rather than by our mistakes, we can also learn to see others by their potential. God loved us before we loved Him; and so we can begin to envision others through these same eyes of love as well, even if it is only in our heart and through our prayers, depending on what a given situation would allow.
“Who gave himself a ransom for all.” 1 Timothy 2:6 (KJV)
The Lamb of God: A great source of strength for us when learning how to love and forgive is the Cross with what Jesus showed us about Mercy even throughout some of the worst punishment and humiliation that a human could ever endure. But “why” did He put Himself through all of that and how does His suffering and death have anything to do with us? Well, we learn from Scripture that Jesus took upon Himself the “judgment” for our mistakes. He voluntarily embraced His passion and death, obeying the Will of the Father and all of this was done in great love for us. Isaiah 53:5 tells us that there will be one who will come and by His stripes, we will be healed, his stripes referring to the mark of the whip on his flesh during those terrible hours of torture. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
You see, Death was the penalty for many “sins” according to Jewish Law and for centuries the Jews would make regular atonement for their errors or “sins” via the sacrificing of innocent animals that were considered spotless and pure. Jesus however, came onto the planet through flesh like any of us, but was fully motivated and led by the Holy Spirit, having remained centered in God. Never deviating from His focus on the Father, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus lived without error as the embodiment of Mercy and led by Grace. He was pure in heart and soul; and so on the Cross, He gave Himself as the “Sacrifice” and became our Lamb of God, (without spot or blemish) offering Himself for us and thereby paying the price of freedom for our souls. Therefore, we in the Body acknowledge His Sacrifice by saying that, “He died for our sins.”
His passion and death also gave us then (and continue to give us today), a clear snapshot of what Forgiveness and Mercy look like, even under the worst of circumstances, we especially see this at the moment He spoke those famous words from the Cross, “Father forgive, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 (KJV) With His life and death, Jesus presented a picture of compassion, humility, and selfless love that the world had never seen before, yet one that we can all gain strength and hope from.
Forgiveness and Mercy as a way of life: In continuing, when Jesus offered the prayer from the Cross, “Father, forgive them,” He opened up the way for Mercy (and forgiveness) to become not only a Commandment for all of us, but a way of life. Based on His example, we can “believe in our hearts,” that He, in a very real way, suffered and died a substitutionary death for us, showing us how to love, even in the face of His excruciating agony; and today, as we reach for the strength to forgive and show Mercy to others, this legacy of love continues. All of this is what we believe and remember when we prepare to “go to the water,” and it is what we carry in our hearts, moving forward as new members of the Body of Christ, regardless of what denomination we may or may not affiliate with.
Mercy in the Face of Persecution: The Bible gives us many examples of Mercy, but one story that really stands out is when Stephen was stoned to death after having given his only sermon, yet it is said that he prayed for his murderers, something many of us would find very hard to do, “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:60 (KJV)
“When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25 (KJV)
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6: 4-15 (KJV)
More about the Importance of Mercy: Much about Mercy has already been mentioned in this Lesson and this is because Jesus makes it very clear that even if we are a member of the Body, without walking in Mercy we could become known as a “worker of iniquity.” Go figure. I guess extending Mercy is pretty important, no matter what kind of baptism ceremony that we participate in as we see in Matthew 7:23, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (KJV)
Here are several verses where we see Matthew 7:23 in context:
(20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
(21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
(22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
(23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
The Story of the Unforgiving Servant: BTC will cover the critical issue of Mercy all throughout our series; but before we move on, let’s also look at this story of the “unforgiving servant,” in Matthew 18: 21-35 (KJV) in order to illustrate how important it is to render on to others the forgiveness and mercy which has been granted to us.
(21) Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
(22) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
(23) Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
(24) And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
(25) But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
(26) The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
(27) Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
(28) But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
(29) And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
(30) And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
(31) So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
(32) Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
(33) Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
(34) And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
(35) So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Water as a Metaphor for Mercy: The word “Water” in the Bible (or the mention of a lack thereof) is often used to depict whether or not Mercy has been practiced or is being practiced in a given situation.
“Clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” Jude 12 (KJV)
So, references in the Bible to “lacking water” or being “dried up and withered” such as what we see in Jude 12, appear to be places where the Holy Ghost (through the Scriptures) is showing us of times when there either has been a lack of Mercy or when there will be a lack of Mercy among the people on earth, even lacking among those in the Body of Christ, having missed their purpose for “entering.”
“These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” Jude 12 (KJV)
Note: The reference to “without fruit” in Jude 12 likely points to what can happen when folks receive the Spirit and do not “mind the Spirit” resulting in a lack of “Fruit of the Spirit.” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Gal 5:22-23 (KJV) We will cover matters of the Spirit beginning with the second part of Baptism, but very much so with our next full Phase, “The Holy Spirit & Grace.”
In continuing, the Bible warns us of the consequences of acting without Mercy in other ways as well, such as what we see in Matthew 25:31-46 (KJV) or what we’ve already reviewed in Matthew 7:23 (KJV), “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Let’s look closely at Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus is not talking about how we might have operated in the Spirit, or even if we had been regular church-goers; rather he is instructing us in the critical importance of love as applied through Mercy. As you read this, remember that “Son of Man” refers to Mercy; whereas when “Son of God” is mentioned, it is likely connected to Grace and the Resurrection Power (Romans 1: 3-4):
(31) When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
(32) And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
(33) And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
(34) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
(35) For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
(36) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
(37) Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
(38) When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
(39) Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
(40) And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
(41) Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
(42) For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
(43) I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
(44) Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
(45) Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
(46) And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
What is “iniquity? The word, “Iniquity” has been mentioned in some of these Scriptures and it is clear that it represents nothing good, but what does it mean? It is a word which references “being unequal.” When we have been given the ways and means “to do” something we should and yet we “do not,” our behavior is then “unequal.”
Thus iniquity is considered to be more of an error of “omission” rather than “commission,” such as: refusing to forgive, being unwilling and too full of pride to accept apologies from others while demanding that others see us only in the best light. Or, we might find ourselves continuing to characterize others by their past errors while remaining rigid in our points of view. Basically, iniquity involves any behavior which fails to render to others the forms of Mercy which we have ourselves received.
Jesus as the Son of Man taught us all about Mercy during his earth walk; and Scripture tells us that He shall return as the “Son of Man” to set the sheep on his right and the goats on the left, a division which will be based on Mercy, something we have just seen in Matthew 25:31-46. (References to Jesus as the Son of Man point to Mercy, while references to Jesus as the Son of God point to the Resurrection Power, which is Grace/Holy Spirit.)
So, to recap, a balanced Christian life will always involve both the willingness to receive and extend Mercy to others as well as a desire to always seek the Spirit for guidance and strength in this endeavor. The first part of Baptism brings us to the Cross of Mercy to reconcile with the Father through the Contract of Mercy; and next, we will look at the receiving of the Spirit of Christ which will live in us and help us become spiritual in nature and by which we will be more naturally inclined to be merciful, compassionate, and forgiving by that New Nature.
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (KJV)
About John the Baptist: According to the Gospels, Jesus Himself entered the water at the river with John the Baptist presiding over the ceremony. Thus, Baptism is considered to be one of the two ceremonies or “Sacraments” (Communion being the other) which all Christians seem to universally embrace in one form or another. Baptizing Jesus was hard for John to do, because he felt very unworthy, but it was necessary for him to do so, as this represented among other things, the Washing of the Sacrifice, as well as an event which marked the shift from preaching about a Kingdom “at hand” to finally being able to realize the Kingdom “In Hand” through the Path which the Shepherd would leave us, a Path which would blend Mercy and Grace as a lifestyle for whosoever will.
Again, in the Gospel of Matthew 3:11 (KJV), John says, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”
So, John the Baptist knew that there was more to Baptism than taking a very important bath in the river. He also knew that the Baptism he conducted was different than what Jesus would introduce. Thus, John the Baptist realized that part of his mission (as given by the Holy Ghost), was to set the stage for… as he put it, “after me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.” John 1:30 (KJV)
Indeed, when Jesus finally arrived to be Baptized, it is said in Scripture that a voice came from heaven; with this verse, Luke tells the story, “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22 (KJV)
It was not long after, that John the Baptist was arrested and taken to prison and eventually put to death. But the practice of conducting Baptisms continued through the disciples of Jesus. Jesus gave them the Authority of His Name and sent them out, but as already mentioned, since the Spirit had not been given yet, they would not have been able to include the “Baptism with the Holy Ghost bringing the Spirit” or offer council with regard to the Baptism with Fire until after Pentecost. So, for the history of how Baptism evolved, we look to the New Testament (especially throughout Acts).
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38 (KJV)
Spirit begets Spirit: We have all heard the expression, “You become like who and what you hang out with.” Well, imagine if our constant companion could be the Spirit of Christ! That is in essence, what the second element of the full Baptism experience brings us which is the “receiving the Spirit,” also known as “The Baptism with the Holy Ghost planting the Seed of the Spirit in us.” If the “Record in Heaven” (as described in 1 John 5:7) is the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, then those which “bear witness in earth” are the “spirit, water, and blood,” according to 1 John 5:8. How does this apply to the second step of Baptism? Well, we know our God is everywhere and all things, but if we are to be the vessels for the “Witness in earth,” then we must make this connection to the Spirit of God and follow it. That is what we commemorate in the 2nd and 3rd aspects of Baptism.
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” John 15: 26-27 (KJV)
It is said in Scripture that when the Holy Ghost brought the Spirit to those who had waited in the Upper Room, “tongues of fire” danced over their heads. Well, this may not be exactly what we experience as our time comes. Yet, each of us can “believe and receive” the Gift of the Spirit/Grace, which will offer us a deeper and more intimate connection to the Spirit of God within our hearts and also give us a greater ability to transform, since that Grace is, in essence, our connection to the Resurrection Power which raised Jesus up. It takes Spirit to teach us about “Spiritual matters.” Spirit begets Spirit; thus, association with the Spirit of God brings about the changes in our nature that the true Seeker of God longs for.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 (KJV)
One Spirit, Many Names: You may have already noticed that this Holy Spirit is also known by many other names such as the New Man, the Greater He, or Grace. In John 14:16, we find the Spirit being referred to as “Another Comforter,”: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;” John 14:16 (KJV)
Then in Hebrews 11:39, we see that Special Gift (first revealed at Pentecost) being described as “The Promise,” and something which generations of God Seekers did not have the experience of, even those of great faith, “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.” So, we are fortunate indeed to be among those who can receive and perceive such Grace (Gift of the Holy Ghost bringing the Spirit), not just for an hour or day, but for each moment of our lives.
Free Gift of Grace: In the Body of Christ, there are many slogans or expressions that drift around and become part of Christian language or nomenclature. Once such expression is the “Free Gift of Salvation.” In looking closer, it is important to note that the “Free Gift” is actually that of Grace, with Salvation being the goal, and Grace is the means by which we can experience a full nature change from flesh-minded to spiritually motivated (elements of Salvation) as we also experience our Unity with Christ and with one another via His Spirit of Grace, One Spirit, One Baptism (Identity).
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6 (KJV)
“And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.” Romans 5:16 (KJV)
Let’s look deeper. In the Bible, we see the word “Saved” in past tense. However, when we see the word “Salvation,” it usually points to the future. So why is this? Well, “Saved” in the Greek is “Sozo” which means “being rescued from a place of danger and brought to a place of safety or incubation.” Some translations add, “rescuing one from great peril.” Additional nuances include “to protect, keep alive, preserve life, deliver, heal, and be made whole.” The word “Salvation,” however, translates as “Soteria,” an altogether different word, referencing “deliverance” or as stated, “salvation.” So, in putting all this together you could say that, we are “saved” from the world through the Cross and brought into the Body of Christ, a place of safety and transformation, whereupon we receive the Spirit of Grace and have what we need to follow that Spirit as we undergo transformation from Glory to Glory.
“Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:9 (KJV)
Ask and ye shall receive: Why are we to “ask for and then “receive” this Gift?” Well, anyone can offer a lovely gift, but by definition, it must be received and opened to have reached its conclusion.
“Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” They answered by saying, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” Acts 19:2 (KJV)
Don’t think you have had this experience yet? Don’t worry because any point, any of us can pray and ask for the Baptism with the Holy Ghost. We can invite the Holy Spirit to come to “live in us,” (to lead and guide us), so that along with the written Word and fellowship with other believers, our souls’ will have immediate access to a personal point of reference by which we can continue to learn what it is to become “Christ-like.”
What will be the evidence of “having received The Spirit?” Earlier in a note, I mentioned that those who walk by the leading of the Spirit develop attributes of the Spirit, known as “Fruit of the Spirit.” But the Spirit can bring many other “Gifts” as well such as a deep sense of discernment, a new way of speaking, and a natural sense of hospitality and spiritual dignity, which the Spirit shows through us, just to name a few. I have already shared this verse of Scripture, but it is worth repeating here again. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Gal 5:22-23 (KJV)
The term “Fire” mentioned here is actually a metaphor regarding the “burning away of the old nature and its habits.” So, with the third element of Baptism, we become aware of the “exposure process,” which involves those experiences that bring to our attention, (often by virtue of seeing how we stumble under pressure)… the habits of the “old-man” nature that are still left in us.
This third element of Baptism works beautifully along with the other two, being Water (Mercy) and Spirit (Grace,) in that… the only way we can truly overcome our old-nature and all of its wiles (ways and habits,) is to walk in Mercy while depending on Grace, a pattern which we will hopefully develop with time and experience during the “wilderness phase” of our journey (period of training and development).
So, if we discover here and there (and we will discover this), that our reactions in a given situation still reflect the “old nature”…the minute we recognize what has happened, we can ask God for help and simply re-connect to the Spirit. We can also re-commit to reach for the Spirit a little sooner next time, so we might exhibit better “Fruit” (of the Spirit) should we face a similar challenge again someday. Agonizing excessively over a mistake involves self-condemnation, something which is not a productive part of transformation. Yes, we should feel remorse, especially if others have been hurt, and we should “repent,” which means to “turn around and begin again.” God’s Mercy is new every day and Jesus will not toss us out. He knows that we are learning by experience.
Don’t be surprised, however, if at first, you find that you want to exercise “the other option” whenever you sense “exposure,” which is to become defensive or seek fault in those bringing attention to a problem, so as not to have to acknowledge one’s part in a difficult situation. Oooops.
Maybe the first option is better…to just ask God for help in overcoming the habit or problem and then give thanks for the Mercy and Grace which we do receive, that helps us become freer each day, from the oppression of all fear-based behaviors and beliefs.
Did I pray for this? Make no mistake about this subject of receiving correction; if we have asked (or prayed) to see where “we might come up higher in our motives and operations,” then we will find ourselves in situations that indeed “expose” just how much “Jesus” we have operating within us. We did and do pray for this… right? You know…“Shape me Lord!” or “Teach me love and patience Lord.” Yikes!
So, do not despair if you find yourself struggling to render “Fruit” under pressure; there is purpose even when we stumble, if we remain open. With each “discovery” of any weakness within ourselves we can learn more about how to better hold to the Spirit. We can also learn what to ask for when we pray for God’s help and ultimately find ourselves growing all the more.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 (KJV)
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV)
Who can conduct a Baptism? Any members of the Body of Christ can Baptize, but we are only authorized to conduct the first element of Baptism (Water). We can then present the new member to the Lord for the Baptism with the Holy Ghost (granting the Spirit) and we can encourage and support one another throughout the growth process, but the 2nd and 3rd elements of Baptism (Spirit & Fire) are matters for the Holy Ghost conducted on behalf of Jesus.
To be Water Baptized, the only requirement for candidates is that they must have reached a point in their understanding where they believe in the (Cross) death and resurrection of Jesus and want Him to be their Shepherd, before they are baptized. When candidates express their belief sincerely, we accept their statement and baptize them.
As for requirements to receive the Gift of Grace, we see many who asked for and received the Spirit in Scripture as has been described in this Lesson; but there was one named Simon who tried to offer money for the “Gift” as he was wanting the power that came with it for material reasons. He was denied and was told this, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.” (Acts 8:21) Evidently, he was so far away from the approaching Grace with a heart of Mercy and love for God as a motive, that he put himself out of the process.
Our Mandate: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” Matthew 28:19 (KJV)
First “mass Baptism”: It is said in Acts that after Pentecost, Peter spoke powerfully and about 3000 people stepped up to be baptized. This could only have been possible if many of those just Baptized turned around and baptized others right then and there. This apparently went on all day, and it would have been an impossibility to have accomplished bringing in 3000 new members with only those who had been in the Upper Room to help. It is an interesting thought anyway. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:41-42 (KJV)
If I have been baptized or christened already…does this count?
Christening vs. Baptism: To answer this question we can simply ask ourselves these things, “When did I personally decide to follow Jesus Christ and enter the soul-transformation process? When did I first believe in the Cross & Resurrection Power which raised Jesus and by which we are transformed? When did I decide to identify with Jesus or the Spirit of Christ? Have I asked Jesus to be my Shepherd?”
If someone else made “the decision” for us as a “God-parent” when we were yet a baby, then perhaps it would be significant to have a “ceremony or celebration” in which we state to the world that we have made the decision for ourselves, to “identify” with The Shepherd Jesus and walk with Him.
The practice of having adults present babies to God in a ceremony apparently dates back to a time long ago, when Christians were being persecuted on a regular basis. Back then, anyone with kids would have to make arrangements for other adults to take their place in continuing to raise the children, if… or shall I say….when they were put to death since persecution was “a given” for hundreds of years during certain periods of history.
This practice of the “dedication of children” or “standing up for children” has evidently carried over in various forms, with “meaning” being added on to it throughout the centuries, until we arrive at our traditions of Baptism today.
Overall, christenings and “stand-in baptisms” represent the desire of adults to dedicate a child to God; but as for “entering a process unto transformation,” that is a decision which only we can make for ourselves when we are grown and ready. No one can make our statement of belief for us, a declaration which is, in fact a requirement for anyone wishing to be baptized.
When you think about this rationally, aside from man-made doctrines on the subject, doesn’t it stand to reason that a decision to make a commitment to spiritual growth should be one that we make for ourselves? There really is no one who can “stand in” for us when it comes right down to “dying to the old nature” and its “ways” and there is no one else who can undergo the “soul-transformation process” for us on our behalf.
To face the death of the “self-nature,” the individual must be fully willing, fully able (at an age appropriate time), and fully enrolled in the process of undergoing change. This requires an active and personal relationship with the Spirit of God since no one else can have a personal relationship with God for us.
“And he that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.” Matthew 10:39 (KJV)
No matter what religion/denomination we wish to envelop our faith in, it is simply impossible for one soul to “grow up” for another, and it is equally impossible for anyone to undergo the rigors of the spiritual journey without a full commitment to “finish the race.” The Spirit of God will be there with us, but we have to continue to seek God throughout our process. We can pray for one another but we cannot seek God for another.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 (KJV)
So, even if you have already been baptized/sprinkled, etc. as a child, then it still may be significant and appropriate to undergo the experience of Baptism again, as an expression of a renewed commitment and as a celebration of a personal choice to walk with Jesus.
However, bear in mind that the ceremony is but a token of our induction into the Body; and as already mentioned, the “water,” regardless of whether we are immersed or sprinkled, has no redeeming or transforming ability in and of itself since water is a natural, earth-based element.
The Spirit of God is that which ultimately holds the power and wisdom to effect lasting change within us. Since Jesus asked us “to Baptize” (Matthew 28:19-20 – KJV), we do this. But even if circumstances will not have allowed us to “make it to the water” prior to passing from this world, our “salvation” will not necessarily be in question, if we held to Mercy and embraced Grace (The Spirit) for however long we walked with Jesus.
Things don’t always happen in life in some dogmatic order. Take the example of Cornelius in Chapter 10 of Acts, who received the Gift of the Holy Ghost (which is the Holy Spirit or Grace) as described in Acts 10:44-45 (KJV); and this happened before he was formally baptized:
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
What if Cornelius had died before a baptism ceremony could have been conducted? Would the Holy Ghost have taken back the Gift of Grace? Not likely. Would Cornelius’ salvation been in question without having “gone to the water?” No; it is clear in Acts that the Holy Ghost “fell on all them which heard the Word.”
Traditions of man vs. the essential elements of Baptism
As “human nature” would have it, some throughout history have added elements with attached meaning which may or may not concur with Scripture; or perhaps some groups wish to stand out as “special” in the Body because of their unique religious practice which they hope will set themselves heads above the rest in the Body. There are far too many newer “traditions” which have been formed around the issue of Baptism to be able to address each one here in BTC, but just to develop a better understanding of how this can happen, let’s look at a couple of examples.
Regarding the Water: Since this original word “Bautizo” means “immersed,” some man-made doctrines now imply that without “being fully dunked” in water you aren’t really “saved” while other groups in the Body believe that unless you use their special translation of the Name of Jesus while dunking, you are also, “not saved.” But does Scripture support that theory? Actually…no, because material things, ordinances, and rituals can’t save us or change us; rather the Spirit of God or Resurrection Power within us can produce the nature change over time. To substantiate this claim that “Without immersion in water you cannot be saved,” some will often refer to Mark 16:16, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” But even in this Scripture passage, “believeth” the translation implies ongoing belief; and if we remember that “Bautizo” refers to “being identified with,” then the lesson from Scripture here is, that what saves us is not the physical water which has no power in and of itself, but what can transform us is “identifying with the Spirit of Christ” on an ongoing basis as well as maintaining our belief in Jesus, The Cross, and Resurrection Power by which “He is Raised” and by which we are Transformed.
Regarding the Name: Grace or the Holy Spirit is there for “whosoever will,” regardless of what language we happen to speak and is a Power beyond the material realm of physical words and actions. As for which “Name” we are to Baptize in, it is in the Name of Jesus Christ, as we see in Act 2:38, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Some also Baptize using these instructions, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matthew 28:19 (KJV) There are no instructions in Scripture that tell us that our Baptism is null and void unless the officiant states the Name of Jesus in a particular ancient language.
Handling differences: So, if you are in the Body of Christ, it is inevitable that you will meet up with some who are very convinced about their special tradition surrounding Baptism and they will no doubt inform you that your ceremony was worthless for whatever reason because “their practice is the only valid one in the Body.” If that happens, stay calm and go back to your Bible and your Studies to confirm, that if you came to the Cross willing to change, if you professed your belief in the Cross and Resurrection, if you received the Forgiveness and Mercy of God, and if you promised to continue to Walk in Mercy, then at least the First Element of Baptism concerning Water was complete. Then, if you are not certain about the Baptism with the Holy Ghost bringing you the Spirit or the Baptism of Fire, those can happen anywhere and at any time you present yourself to the Lord for that purpose, either alone or with a trusted and Spirit-filled member of the Body of Christ. As we saw above in the story of Cornelius, there is no special order to all three elements of Baptism; and more important to Jesus is the condition of heart and belief we have when we come to the Cross.
Three Periods of Baptism:
In addition to there being three parts to our Baptism, there are also three periods to be aware of when Baptism was conducted a little differently each time and for a different purpose. The first period involved the Baptism with John the Baptist, the second period involved the Baptism conducted by the disciples of Jesus while He was with us and the third period is what we practice today, which includes the receiving of the Gift of Grace, something which was not operational until the Spirit had been given at Pentecost.
Wow! What? You might be wondering, “How is that? Isn’t the Baptism that the disciples officiated during the time of Jesus the same one we do today?”
The answer is yes (in part) and no… yes to the need to “repent” prior to being baptized and yes to the immersion in water. (By the way, the word repent means “change our mind/turn around,” or in street vernacular, it means “become willing to clean up our act.”) But until the Cross & Resurrection, there could be no “statement of belief,” and until the Day of Pentecost, no one had the Spirit, so the second and third elements of Baptism (Spirit & Fire) had not yet been added, but as we saw earlier in this Lesson, John the Baptist had predicted that there would be three (Water, Spirit, and Fire).
While He walked the planet with us, followers of Jesus were able to see the Mercy operational in healings, in deliverance from demonic oppression, through His teachings and other amazing demonstrations of love and wisdom either from Jesus or the disciples; but the Gift or the Gifts of the Spirit (Grace/Greater He/Another Comforter, etc.) were not yet in play. Before the Spirit could be given, Jesus had to first complete the Week of the Cross, show Himself Glorified with the Resurrection, and abide with us a little longer before departing, to prepare us for what was to come.
Now, this is where our KJV comes in handy because, in some translations of Scripture, all mention of the “Holy Ghost” has been changed to “Holy Spirit,” even in the Gospels, which almost makes it seem that some of the disciples received the Spirit prior to Pentecost. But in the KJV, there are only a few times when the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
Ingress Aires: An example of this is seen here in John 20:21-22 KJV, when after the Resurrection, Jesus is said to have appeared to some of the disciples who were gathered and “He breathed on them” (otherwise known as the Ingress Aires). Check this verse out, “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” Then He said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost & Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”
Ok, so what was that all about? Well, if you read some of the other versions or mis-translations of this passage of Scripture, you would think that a “select few” got a jump start on Pentecost with “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,” Right? Well, to understand this moment in time, let’s put “Holy Ghost” back and then look at the next verse which speaks of remitting sins. Wow! Jesus is talking about Mercy…Again. He breathed on them, to help them be able to forgive (remit sins) which would prepare them for what was to come when the Spirit would be given.
The Ingress Aires of Jesus (His Holy Breath) is what we can ask for anytime we have trouble forgiving; and it is indeed better to ask for help in obeying the commandment “to forgive,” than decide we are not going to allow ourselves to learn to forgive. We would never want to be among those to whom Jesus says, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:23 (KJV)
So, you could say that the Holy Ghost (Guiding & Empowering Attribute of God) leads us to the Cross so we can “enter” and “receive” not only the Mercy & Forgiveness of God, but to also be in position to “receive the Gift of Grace (Holy Spirit)” which will lead us and guide us all throughout our soul-transformation experiences as we are changed from Glory to Glory. Yes, this is being stated the second time in this Lesson, but it is worth repeating as often as necessary so that we can really grasp that we are in a process of profound growth as we learn to walk in Mercy while holding to Grace; and we can embrace that process and truly engage in it.
Born Again by the Spirit: It is also important to clarify, that in spite of some translations replacing “Holy Ghost” with “Holy Spirit,” no one received that Spirit until Pentecost. Ok, we already said that earlier right? But here is the next important point, and that is that no one could have been “Born Again” (by the Spirit) before Pentecost either, because it takes the Spirit to become Spiritual in Nature which is what happens over time when we begin to experience being “Born Again.” The Seed of Grace is planted with our full Baptism, and if attended, it grows a root, then a blade, then the growth continues from there until what was gestating on the inside manifests on the outside as “Fruit of the Spirit,” or as a changed nature. Though many confuse their Day of Conception with their Time of Birth, it still remains true that spiritual growth takes time. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)
Let’s continue to the next Phase of BTC where we will learn more about “The Holy Spirit and Grace” as well as what we can expect in the way of growth experiences or what is known as “spiritual warfare.” We will also look at the difference between “The Church” which Christ is building within us and the “churches” or “gathering places. “ We will explore “The Gifts” which come with the Holy Spirit, all of which can help with our day to day growth experiences, as well as the way in which we minister to one another in the Body of Christ.