#5 What the Gospels Teach - Baptism for Repentance and Baptism of the Holy Spirit and Fire
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:11-12
John baptized people with water for what reason? Repentance, water baptism is all about repentance. Even later in the epistles, you see baptism representing the death of the old self and its pursuit of sin (essentially repentance defined), with coming out of the water representing resurrection to new life. There is a difference and certainly there are two baptisms. Unfortunately this passage of scripture leads to all sorts of assumptions and questions. Does someone need baptized to be saved? Are all believers baptized with Holy Spirit? Is baptism by the Holy Spirit the same event as baptism by fire, or are they different?
Remember water baptism is all about repentance. Repentance is all about a turning away from sin and towards God. Water baptism without repentance is meaningless... the meaning and value of baptism is not in the ‘immersion’ or even in a public declaration of faith, baptism finds its meaning and value in repentance. John said “I baptize you with water for repentance...” in other words John is saying, ‘The reason I baptize you is your repentance’. So we get into the debate between believers baptism vs. infant baptism, and mode of baptism, sprinkling, pouring, immersion, etc... nonetheless you miss the point of baptism when you miss the ‘why’ of it all. John baptized with water for repentance... the validity of someone’s baptism does not lie in its mode, or even in its time, the validity of a baptism lies in repentance.
What about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and Fire? In a few verses we will read of Jesus’ being baptized and see that the Holy Spirit came down upon Him like a dove immediately following His water baptism. Does this indicate that water baptism is immediately followed by receiving the Holy Spirit? Clearly Jesus did not need to repent so his baptism was not a baptism of repentance, which would explain why John seemed confused about why He should baptize Jesus (but we will get to that on the next post.) So what is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Recall that the validity of water baptism is marked by repentance, the validity of Holy Spirit baptism is... holiness. Moreover it is safe to say that all ‘saved’ individuals are ‘baptized’ in the Holy Spirit, because all true believers are holy... (please, please, please, I speak not of sinless perfection, but of supernatural separation from being dominated by the desires and devices of this world.) Remember the scriptures teach in Hebrews 12:14 that without holiness no one will see God.
If someone has a mean spirit... they act mean, if someone has a lustful spirit... they lust, if someone has a lying spirit... they tell lies, if someone has the Holy Spirit... they act ____. You know the answer. So water baptism is for repentance which marks the turning from sin towards God, and baptism of the Holy Spirit and Fire marks the beginning of purification and increasing holiness. Fire being the symbol of refining, and the Holy Spirit being the 3rd person of the trinity dwelling in the repentant believer leading them in holiness towards perfection.
I hope I did not pull more out of that scripture than what is really there. If I am way off base then please be as iron sharpening iron, and let me know.