We in reformed churches are fond of quoting the Apostle Paul, who said:
There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
(Ephesians 4:4-6 KJ)
Nevertheless, we recognize more than one mode of baptism, including sprinkling, immersion and pouring. Infants are usually sprinkled, indicating that their parents are dedicating them to God. Older children and adults are often baptized by pouring or immersion after making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Immersion in particular symbolizing that they have been both crucified with Christ and resurrected to new life in him.
However, there is one baptism which is seldom spoken of today in many churches. John the Baptist said:
I baptize you with 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 the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11 NIV)
He was speaking of course of Jesus Christ. Men baptize us with water, but Christ baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. That this is a separate occurrence is shown by something that happened when the Apostle Paul visited Ephesus, as recorded in Ephesians 19:1-6 (NIV):
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 in 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.
When we are baptized with the Holy Spirit the first thing that is produced in us is the fruit of the Spirit; that is, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV)
In addition, as the Apostle Paul tells us, we are then each given the ability to manifest the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:7 ISV) Paul goes on to list 12 manifestations of the Spirit (sometimes called Spiritual gifts). These are not all there are, however. The Bible tells of certain individuals in the Old Testament who were gifted with supernatural abilities by God’s Spirit. These were for certain purposes and were not then available to everyone.
However, on the Day of Pentecost all of the believers present were filled with the Holy Spirit and they all began to speak in tongues and prophesy, as had been foretold by the prophet Joel. Acts 2: 1-21 (KJV) And as time went by and the believers began to share the good news to an ever-widening circle, they manifested many other spiritual gifts to meet the needs they encountered. I am aware of more than 30 types of Spiritual manifestations (or gifts) that have been catalogued. But of course, any listing of spiritual gifts is incomplete since the ways in which the power of the Holy Spirit can be manifested are limitless.
In his book, “Christianizing the Roman Empire A.D. 100-400”, Ramsay MacMullen undertakes to understand how Christianity, which the pagan Roman Empire considered to be a dangerous cult which it sought to destroy, came to be the official state religion of the empire within the space of 300 years. His conclusion: the Christian church grew in strength and influence through the power of God demonstrated in manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
So why are most of us unaware of this, and why don’t we see these manifestations of the Spirit more frequently today? Although it was the demonstration of the power of God that led to the growth of Christianity, over time, as the church became more and more institutionalized, the demonstration of God’s power became less and less evident. The church began to rely instead on political and military power to further its cause. Eventually the unity of spirit which was the hallmark of the early church was lost as divisions arose over church doctrine, and the church of Jesus Christ splintered into numerous competing factions, each convinced it alone was the true church. So it has continued until the present day.
Also, some have claimed that manifestations of the Holy Spirit, or spiritual gifts, were no longer needed after the New Testament canon was established, but that is not really the case. They are still available to us today, but we have largely been unaware of their availability or just ignored them.
But the commission that Christ has given to his Church to go into all the world teaching all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you (Matthew 28:18-20 ISV) then includes his instructions to announce “the kingdom from Heaven is near! Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and drive out demons” (Matthew 1:7,8 ISV) . And this is something we cannot do without the manifestation of God’s power by the Holy Spirit.
Periodically over the last 2,000 years God has again poured out his Holy Spirit to baptize many people and spark a revival of spiritual gifts. Such a revival occurred about 50 years ago, beginning in the Haight Asbury area of San Francisco, turning acid-dropping hippie dropouts from society into dynamic Spirit-filled believers in Jesus, and spreading from Southern California throughout the United States and beyond. My late wife Mary and I came into contact with a number of these so-called Jesus people in the early 1970’s and were fascinated by the love and enthusiasm they exhibited. We didn’t then know what they had, but we knew that we wanted it too. So we jointly committed to follow Jesus wherever he led us and he baptized us both with his Holy Spirit and we began to manifest spiritual gifts. That was the beginning of a life of challenge, adventure and accomplishment that totally changed the direction of our lives and provided us with opportunities to go places and do things we had never dreamed of doing. We discovered that God’s plans for our lives were far greater than anything we could have imagined and allowed us to impact the lives of many others in positive ways.
As we recently saw in the spiritual revival at Asbury University and other places, God is now once again pouring out his Holy Spirit without measure and providing all the opportunity to participate in this life-changing experience. The choice is yours. You can ignore this, be a spectator or you can become a participant in what God is doing.
I strongly urge you to choose to participate.