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Building up believers and the New Testament church

The Gospel of Baptism

A Final Encouragement

If God intended that water and Spirit baptism go together, why do we not see this in experience, in many (or most) cases? I think the first answer lies in the message that is being proclaimed. People respond to the message they hear. If they are told they must wait a long time for Spirit baptism, they probably will. But if they are told that they can be baptized in water and the Spirit at the same time, faith will rise in the heart of an honest seeker, and I believe many (maybe most) will experience Spirit baptism at the same time. I believe this is what God wants. My own observation is that most of the time, the message is not declared in such a way that the Holy Spirit can anoint the message in the hearts of the people and bring faith to receive from God. I encourage us to search the scriptures in this matter, so that we can be convinced before God of His purpose. Then we will be able to move in faith and proclaim the truth in the anointing of God.

I think we would all agree that it is possible for a believer to enter into water baptism apart from faith. Of course we try to make sure this does not happen, but we can err. We may baptize somebody in water when they are not really dealing with God. But a sure sign that they have believed in reality is "rivers of living water flowing from the heart." This is something that only God can do, but if we do not labor with this intent, I think we are doing both God and the believer a great disservice. Let us not be found in error on these things. Our place is to proclaim the truth so that the Holy Spirit can anoint that truth in the heart.

Obviously, there may still be hindrances in the heart of an individual which they alone must deal with before God. We cannot do this for another person, but we can be faithful to teach properly, to care, and to encourage. We dare not leave people with only water baptism. Every believer needs Spirit baptism. It is not optional, or only for workers, or only for those who preach the gospel. It is for every believer to establish a proper relationship with God. Let us ask God for wisdom and grace to hold truth in love, that all may partake of everything that Christ died for.

Why has the issue of baptism been the focus of conflict over the last 2000 years? I think there is one answer. It is the natural versus the spiritual mind and the enemy of our soul is very quick to take advantage of this at every opportunity. It is much easier to work and live in the natural, but natural thinking will take us off course every time. There is no way that we can know truth with the natural mind. "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth'" (John 4:21-24).

The same natural thinking that leads people to believe the elements of the Lord's table become the actual body of Christ will also conclude that water baptism saves us. It appeals to the pride of man, thinking that we can do what only God can do. The same mind may also conclude that certain words must be said in exactly the right way at the baptism (such as "in the name of Jesus") or that people must be baptized by our special group or denomination. I see the same element in all of this: the natural mind trying to comprehend the things of God and trying to do something for Jesus instead of letting God work within us, both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). God is Spirit, and there is no way around this. Jesus said the words He spoke were "spirit and life." Let us not come down to the natural level. When we do, we become a great hindrance to those who want to enter into what God is doing in this hour.

If you are among those who have been water baptized but have not experienced Spirit baptism, can I strongly encourage you to go to God and let Him show you where you are? I have searched the scriptures on this matter again and again, and I see only one requirement on our side: faith to receive what God has provided. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. God wants to indwell every believer and bring each one into a full relationship with Himself. If something is hindering faith, let us stay before God until the hindrance is revealed and removed. In the scripture we have already quoted from John 7:37-39, the direction from Jesus is simple: "Thirst, come, and drink." Jesus promised that if we would come believing, He would give the Holy Spirit to be a river of living water flowing from within. Let us not be robbed of the simplicity that is ours in Jesus our Lord.

Brethren, I really believe that if we will allow God to wash our minds with His word, we will see that there truly is only "one baptism." There is no conflict in scripture, and we need not fear to proclaim the truth. Let us be those who love the truth, walk in the truth, and proclaim the truth. God will do His work in all of our hearts, and will be glorified in His church.