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| Baptized by Water and by Fire
A Study by Pastor John © May 1999 (revised 8-6-2006)
"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 there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God."
- We all know the story of Jesus. We know how he lived and how he was betrayed and how he died. We also know from Scripture that Jesus didn't stay dead, that he rose again after three and a half days in the grave.
- What happened next is what I wish to speak about this morning.
- Jesus had risen from the dead, had appeared to his disciples on at least ten separate occasions over the course of forty days and during one of these appearances he issued the following commands for the creation of the Christian Church:
Afterward Jesus appeared to the eleven as they sat eating, and rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not those who had seen him after he was risen.
And he said unto them, Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
They who believe and are baptized will be saved; but they who do not believe will be damned.
And these signs will follow those who believe; In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
They will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
So then after the Lord had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
And they went forth, and preached every where, God working with them, and confirming the words with signs following. Amen.
- "They who believe and are baptized will be saved."
- What exactly is baptism and what does it have to do with our salvation?
- Paul explains it clearly at Romans 6:3,4
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
- Now, as with most things, there are various ways to be baptized. The traditional method for Evangelical Christians is by full immersion. In other words, we are dipped gently, completely under the water while the baptizer proclaims the rite: "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." This is how BJ will be baptized in a little more than an hour out at Twin Lakes Beach.
- As we are lowered into the water we are metaphorically buried with Jesus. In other words, we are acknowledging that it was for each of us individually that he went into the grave. As we rise out of the water we metaphorically join Jesus in his resurrection with the complete assurance that some day in the future we too will be resurrected, even as Jesus was
- Now, as we emerge from the water we are told to be mindful that we "walk in the newness of life." Why is this?
- Baptism, as I've said, is a sacred metaphor for the entire Gospel message.
- We are told at John 3:16 that Jesus came to bring the world life and forgiveness. As followers of Jesus we are saying that we acknowledge what Jesus has done for us. As we go through various experiences in our Christian walk we use various metaphors to mark our passages. One of these is communion, the holy Eucharist, in which we metaphorically receive the body and blood of Jesus, inwardly. Some Christians, like Roman and Eastern Catholics, say that when we take the Eucharist we are, through a process known as transubstantiation, actually receiving the Host, i.e. that the bread and wine are mystically transformed into the literal body and blood of the Savior. For Protestants and most other Christians, the communion meal is accepted as symbolic. In either case however, the image is a powerful one!
- The rite of baptism is another of these very important metaphors whereby we join our Savior in his death and resurrection. There exists within the Christian Church diverse opinions on some of the specifics of this rite as well.
- Most Christians agree that new converts to the Faith should be baptized shortly after they receive Jesus' gift. While there is some disagreement -- chiefly among the United Pentecostals -- most agree that the rite of baptism itself does not save anyone; it is, again, a metaphor of an internal transformation which has already taken place at the time of salvation. It represents that we have been adopted into the family of God. Throughout Church history there has been disagreement about whether or not people should be baptized more than once. In my opinion, that's fine if people want to do this. Biblically speaking however, a single baptism is the only one required.
- On the question of rebaptism, as with so many others, we honor what is called the Priesthood of all Believers. In other words, we don't need a pastor or priest to dictate our spiritual walk for us. We can individually approach God and receive direct instruction from the Bible and through communion with the Holy Spirit.
- It should be mentioned in this study that there are two opinons about the duration and requirements on those who are saved. In my opinion, verses such as Romans 8:35-39 teach a doctrine often referred to as Eternal Security. According to this view, once a person is adopted into the family the question of their salvation is settled for all time. I discuss this important doctrine elsewhere.
- The other view holds that salvation is guarenteed as long as the Christian continues to meet certain criteria. If a person ceases to live a Chrsitian life, that person looses his salvation and forfeits eternal life. Those who believe this almost always say the person can return to God's graces and be saved again. Again, I do not believe this is a biblical doctrine. For those who do however, it would be necessary to be re-baptized should one loose salvation and then reclaim it.
- Regardless of where one stands on this issue, as with everything else, we want to be balanced. From the Anabaptists and similar groups in the Church's history, we find that rebaptizing to mark particularly important points in one's spiritual walk is a traditional use of the rite even though it not practiced in the Bible.
- Many people who have been away from God for a while may want to be rebaptized to mark their rededication to God. Others will choose to be rebaptized when they join a local church, in fact some denominations require converts to receive baptism into their denomination or church in order to be admitted as members.
- Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with Pentecost!
- On the first Jewish holy day of Pentecost after Jesus' ascension into the heaven, the disciples were gathered in an upper room for the traditional feast when they received another type of baptism. This baptism had been predicted in the 8th or 9th century BC. The prophet Joel had prophesied it:
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit." (Joel 2:28,29).
- Peter cited this prophecy at Acts 2:16 to explain what happened on the Day of Pentecost. We read this section of Acts earlier. The Holy Spirit baptized everyone present in the room. Well, word of what was happening quickly spread throughout Jerusalem and people flocked to the disciples to see what was up. Scriptures say that a great multitude came and experienced the miracle of Pentecost.
- Jesus had said his followers would speak with new tongues, but they probably didn't expect anything so dramatic!
- As we read the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, the various Epistles or Letters, and so on, we find these supernatural gifts manifested from time to time. The Apostle Paul sought to organize the gifts and to make sure that they were used correctly and "in order." The diverse gifts kept manifesting in the lives of God's people throughout the First Century.
- But with the legalization and politicking of Christianity the more dynamic gifts, like healings, tongues, etc. faded away. To be sure, Church history records scattered outbreaks of what we today call Pentecostalism, the Baptism of Fire, but they were few and far between.
- Then, nearly two thousand years later, something amazing happened. A group of ministers began seeking God in the hope of producing a "Second Chapter of the Acts Church." They felt the Christian Church had grown lukewarm and spiritually weak and so through much prayer and fasting they sought God for a "Pentecostal Outpouring of the Holy Spirit."
- Guess what happened: God heard them and granted the desire of their hearts! It began in small enclaves throughout my ancestral homeland, Wales, but by the turn of the twentieth century many Protestant Christians felt certain that God had something huge in store for the Church.
- Then came Azusa Street. A small African American congregation of no real significance in LA, and yet what happened there set the Christian world on fire! The Power of the Holy Spirit powerfully "fell on the worshippers," people were "slain in the Spirit," they spoke in tongues, amazing healings occurred... The Pentecostal Movement was born. Today, about ninety years after Azusa Street, the Pentecostal fires continue to burn, though not as brightly as before.
- Following World War Two, once it was obvious that Adolph Hitler was not the Antichrist so many had assumed him to be, the Pentecostal fires waned. They didn't go out, but they did weaken. Then in the sixties and seventies they were fanned back into flames by the various "Jesus Movements" and charasmatic churches that sprang up. At this time young people began doing something revolutionary which terrified the established Church -- they began to live the Gospel and put their faith into action! Around the world people like Arthur Blessitt (the man who carried the cross around the world on his back!), the original members of Jesus People USA, and countless others became followers of Jesus in a literal sense. Contemporary Christian music lifted the souls of a generation up to God as hippies and flower children turned their hearts and minds to God. Among these was Marsha Stevens, the "Mother of Contemporary Christian Music."
- Today there are Charismatic Roman Catholic Churches, Baptist Churches, Non-denominational churches and many others seeking to carry on the Pentecostal fires.
- There is some debate about what all this means of course. Some contend that unless one has "received the baptism of the Holy Spirit" one is not really saved, but this is not biblical. In fact, as this doctrine adds to the requirements of salvation, it is potentially heretical! Just as we are baptized in water BECAUSE we are saved not to be saved, so too God baptizes some of us in the Holy Spirit BECAUSE we are saved as aditional blessings for His purposes. And not every Believer is baptized in the Spirit, including many whose faith and spiritual power is unquestionable. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is given to every Believer at salvation. Those who sincerely seek to walk with the Master are often given the baptism of the Holy Spirit as another act of grace and yet clearly no one can say who is a "Spirit baptized Christian" and who is not nor does it make the person better or "more Christian" in any way. Paul makes it clear that not everyone receives the same gifts and, he adds, that the gift of tongues, the touchstone "sign" for most of the modern Pentecostal Movement, is actually the least of all the defined spiritual gifts. We should not, therefore, get tripped up over such issues but worship God with the grace we are given.
- There is one point in time when we are baptized in water in obedience to the scriptural injunctions. I was twelve when I was so immersed, at Harrell Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Doraville, Georgia. Secondary baptisms, if any, are reaffirmations of our death, burial and resurrection with Jesus. Likewise, there is a particular time when we may receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was sixteen when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, at Austin Avenue Church of God in Marietta Ga. At that time, we may receive gifts such as tongues etc. The gifts may manifested at the time of one's Spirit baptism or they may come later, or not at all as God wills. This again is independent of salvation and the initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- Then there are those blessed times when our minds and hearts are on the Master and the Holy Spirit fills us with a special short term outpouring of God's Grace. When we raise our hearts and voices in praise and palpably experience the presence of God. These are wonderful times of spiritual refreshing and renewal.
- Don't let anyone steal your faith by debating such issues. If you have received Jesus, Jesus lives within you. The closer you walk with him the more aware of the Spirit you will be and the more powerfully God will be able to use you to reach the world for Christ and help fulfill the Great Commission, which is that every one on earth must hear the Gospel of the Kingdom before the end comes.
- God bless you all.
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