Today is Pentecost, the birthday of THE Church. At Faith Community church, we sought a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our community and our worship. God did not disappoint. Our Teaching Time focused on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 19.1-7 (NIV)
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
Luke 3.1-3, 15-17
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar...the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
The 12 men Paul encountered were Christ-followers. But in the initial years of the Way, the story of Jesus was only transmitted by word-of-mouth. These had only a partial narrative. They knew only of John's baptism of repentance. Paul fills in the gaps in their Gospel by expanding John's teaching of Jesus' baptism -- with the Spirit and fire!
Many today are familiar with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This emphasis on repentance and forgiveness positions us for God's grace distributed as He will and when. The turning away from wrong and seeking forgiveness is a vital first step. It is the end of an ineffective life. But there is more.
We can fall into a cycle of forgiveness and failure (not unlike the book of Judges) if we live only with this understanding of baptism. Much like treating the symptoms of an illness, this has affect. But it is not a path to wholeness.
The baptism of Christ-followers produces something even more amazing than forgiveness. (Just typing that statement causes me to pause. Forgiveness is ABSOLUTELY amazing and wonderful. It is not diminished by what I am about to say.) The baptism with the Holy Spirit (and fire) is likened to threshing, winnowing and gathering wheat.
Threshing breaks up the whole wheat plant. It disconnects the wheat kernel from the stems and leaves. Winnowing throws the broken wheat into the air where natural or man-made breeze carries off the chaff (unusable stems and leaves) allowing the kernels to be gathered.
The baptism of believers in Jesus Christ is a baptism that deals with the causes of sin as well as the symptoms. The Holy Spirit removes what is unusable and concentrates what is usable. Victory, not defeat, becomes the norm. Failure is not impossible, but it is isolated. Wholeness comes. It is a beginning of a useful life.
So what baptism did you receive?