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The Restoration Movement (RM), in which I was raised, teaches that only the apostles and Cornelius and his household received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This was one of our core beliefs about the Holy Spirit. This verse, more than any other, was the “eye opener” for me. Many years ago when the 17th Street Church of Christ in San Francisco divided over speaking in tongues, my wife I were challenged by a brother and friend to accept speaking in tongues as a better way. I concluded from a study of the Scriptures that speaking in tongues was not warranted at this present time, but I also concluded that some things I believed about the Holy Spirit were also not warranted. Later I had the privilege of meeting Robert Leon Gibson and reading his book, “Christian You Were Baptized in Water and Spirit.” If you haven’t read the book, you should. He was a Christian in every sense of the word. Without a proper understanding of this verse, we are not likely to have a complete view of the one baptism, the new birth and of course baptism with the Spirit.
John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but one is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3: 16)
What is the promise found in this verse?
John said, “He (Christ) would baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
What is the baptism of fire?
The immediately following verse (v 17) shows us that the baptism in fire is a totally separate event, the condemnation of the unquenchable fire of judgment. The picture of the winnowing fork and the threshing floor is to separate the wheat from the chaff. The baptism in the Spirit is immersion in the Spirit with its attendant blessings. There are only two categories: wheat or chaff, sheep or goats, right hand or left hand, saved or lost, baptism with Spirit or baptism with fire. (Matthew 3: 10- 12)
To whom was this promise made?
THE JEWS-The context shows he was speaking to them all, the multitude of Jews (v 7, 10) who had come out to hear and be baptized by John. This verse is particularly revealing because it specifically states that he was speaking to them all, not “some” of them, not to those who later would be chosen to be apostles, but to all of them. If you are a sincere truth seeker, not an agenda keeper and if you are honest with yourself, this verse tells us that the apostles and Cornelius were not the only ones baptized with the Spirit.
Some in the RM argue that we cannot tell to whom John was speaking. My reply is, “Are you serious?” And of course they are and they are sincere. This is an example of our presuppositions darkening our understanding. I have been there, and done that.
Some argue we can best understand to whom it was spoken by noting its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost. This is another cop-out. First, since the promise was not made to the apostles, they did not fulfill it. Second, it was partially fulfilled (a beginning) by the 3,000 Jews who were saved on Pentecost. Third, the apostles fulfilled Jesus’ promise, not John’s, on Pentecost (Acts 1: 5). Fourth, we can test their argument by applying it to Pentecost. They believe that twelve people received the baptism with the Spirit on Pentecost. Yet John said Jesus will baptize you with the Spirit and fire. If He only baptized the twelve apostles with the Spirit, then the remainder is lost, and will be baptized with fire. We know that this is not true because 3, 000 were saved.
Is the baptism with the Spirit linked to the pouring out of the Spirit?
“But this (the baptism with the Spirit) is what (pouring out of the Spirit) was spoken of through the prophet Joel: and it shall be in the last days,” God says, “That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind. (Acts 2: 17) This was spoken to the multitude at Pentecost.
Peter tells us that the baptism with the Spirit is inextricably linked to the pouring out of the Spirit. Obviously you cannot be immersed in the Spirit unless it has been poured out upon you, but if the Spirit is poured out, you will be immersed in the Spirit. Why? Jesus pours out the Spirit richly and abundantly, without measure. (Titus 3: 5, 6; Ephesians 1: 8; John 3: 34) The baptism with the Holy Spirit is coextensive with the pouring out.
Is the baptism with the Holy Spirit linked to receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit?
Most of the RM would agree that the apostles and Cornelius and his household
were baptized with the Spirit, but at the same time they were given and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10: 44- 47) However the 3, 000 Jew were given and received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 38) when they were baptized with the Spirit (John’s prophecy, Luke 3: 16). The reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit is coextensive with the baptism with the Spirit.
Is there a link between the baptism with the Spirit and the new birth?
Jesus explained that the new birth was a birth of water and the Spirit, two elements. Before He ascended, he commanded that the apostles should make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (This is the water). A few days later, Peter announced that God would pour forth His Spirit upon all mankind. (This is the Spirit). There we have the two elements. Common sense tells us that we cannot be born of water (come forth) unless we have first been immersed in water. Similarly, we cannot be born of the Spirit unless we have first been immersed in the Spirit. The new birth is coextensive with the baptism with the Spirit.
What evidence can be cited to show that the 3, 000 Jews were baptized with the Holy Spirit?
There is no specific statement, but the cumulative evidence inevitably leads one to that conclusion. There is no statement that they were born again, but they were.
· The promise of John the Baptist (Luke 3: 16) cannot be discounted because of our ignorance; this statement was made to all the Jews. All will be baptized with the Spirit and fire by Jesus. If only the twelve apostles, among the Jews, were baptized with the Spirit, then the others were lost. Can you believe that? Neither can I.
· The baptism with the Spirit is coextensive with the pouring out of the Spirit. Since the Spirit was to be poured out on all who believed and obeyed (John 7: 37-39; Acts 5: 32), we conclude that they were baptized with the Spirit also.
· The 3,000 received the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as the apostles and Cornelius did, since reception of the Spirit is coextensive with the baptism with the Spirit. we conclude that they were baptized with the Spirit. (Act 2: 38; 10: 44- 47)
· The 3,000 were saved; thus they were born of water and the Spirit. They could not have been born of water unless they had been first immersed in water. Similarly they could not have been born (come forth from) of the Spirit unless they were first immersed in the Spirit. (Acts 2: 47; John 3: 5)
· Paul states for in one Spirit, we were baptized into one body. (1 Corinthians 12: 13). Surely this included the 3, 000 at Pentecost.
If John the Baptist promised the Jews the baptism with the Spirit, when was the promise extended to the Gentiles?
For John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit, not many days from now. (Acts 1: 5) Spoken to the apostles.
And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, “John baptized you with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If God therefore gave them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way? And when they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11: 16- 18)
The RM has used these verses to restrict and exclude; God, however, uses them to include and extend His blessing to both Jew and Gentile. How can we be sure this extends to the baptism with the Spirit? For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body.
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Last Update 09/26/12