“I baptize you with (or in) water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with (or in) the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11
John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus, the Messiah, to come. He prepared people’s hearts by preaching a message of repentance. He baptized people in water as they came to confess and seek forgiveness for their sins. But John also declared that the Kingdom shouldn’t stop with repentance and forgiveness of sins. John pointed to Jesus, the One who would baptize with more than water.
So many of our conservative evangelical and liberal mainline protestant churches have people who are only baptized in water. The gospel that is preached is mostly about repentance and forgiveness of sin, which was the message of John the Baptist. Many churches have yet to move on to the gospel of Jesus which offers much more than that.
Some people believe that when you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within you, that is what it means to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Even if we assume that is true (which I’m not sure it is), then what about being baptized in fire?
John prophesied that Jesus would baptize in both the Holy Spirit and fire. Where is the baptism of fire? Where are the messages that preach and teach about the baptism of fire? Unfortunately, it gets glossed over and lumped in with the salvation experience. I’m convinced there is more available to us because I’ve experienced it firsthand.
In the Gospel of John (John 20:22), we see the resurrected Jesus breathe on the disciples in the upper room, and we see them receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus’s very next words were about forgiveness of sins. Receiving the Holy Spirit within us is about being forgiven of our sin and being able to forgive others when they sin against us.
Then, before ascending back to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus says to His disciples (who’ve already received the Holy Spirit within them), “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high“(Luke 24:49).
Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, reiterates this same point in Acts 1 and brings meaning to the words of John the Baptist. Speaking about the resurrected Jesus before He ascended, Luke writes,
On one occasion, while he (Jesus) was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with (or in) water, but in a few days you will be baptized with (or in) the Holy Spirit.”Acts 1:4-5
Then in Acts 2 we see the disciples “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” This experience in Pentecost was very different than what the disciples experienced in the upper room when Jesus breathed on them. This was a much more powerful and violent experience of the Holy Spirit. There was a sound of a violent wind, tongues of fire and speaking in tongues. This was the disciples being “clothed with power from on high.” This wasn’t about forgiveness of sins like the upper room experience in John 20. This was about the Spirit empowering the disciples for purity and powerful ministry.
One way to say it is that first the disciple received the Spirit within them and then they received the Spirit upon them. The first was the breath of God; the second was the wind of God. The first was for their own salvation; the second was for the salvation of others. The first came gently, intimately, and quietly; the second came powerfully, outwardly, and loudly.
If one still wants to maintain that we as Christians are baptized with the Holy Spirit at salvation when we receive the Spirit within us, then we could still call the event that happened to the disciples at Pentecost a baptism of fire. It was still something more. John’s words stated that Jesus would baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.
For others, it is clear that baptism in the Spirit is a second event that results in us being “filled with the Spirit“(Acts 2:4; Ephesians 5:18) similar to what happened at Pentecost. Some experience this second event months or years after salvation and others experience it simultaneous with conversion. I didn’t experience it until over two decades after my conversion experience.
Either way, (whatever you want to call it – baptism of the Spirit or baptism of fire) the truth remains: There is more available to us than most Christians are experiencing! There is more power of the Spirit, more gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12), more supernatural encounters, and more freedom from sin.
So many churches in American have stopped at the ministry of John the Baptist. They preach a message of repentance and baptize with water, but never introduce their people to the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. They have a room full of people on Sundays baptized in water but hardly anyone (if anyone) baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire.
No wonder the world is so skeptical of the gospel message. We claim to proclaim the message of Jesus but only experience the ministry of John the Baptist. We proclaim a supernatural God who came in the flesh in Jesus, performed signs and wonders throughout His ministry, and rose from the grave. Yet, people come to our churches and don’t see any of this: no supernatural gifts of the Spirit, no healings, no casting out demons, no supernatural encounters with God. It’s not too hard for people to see that, while we preach a supernatural God, there is nothing supernatural happening in the lives of many Christians or in the life of the church.
We need to be teaching our people that the Christian life is more than water baptism, repentance, and the forgiveness of sins. There is more than the ministry of John the Baptist. Jesus made available to us a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.
Have you had that kind of baptism?