There are two baptisms which involve the Holy Spirit which often are mixed and considered to be one and the same.
Many Christians who stand firmly for the distinctiveness of the 3 Persons of the Godhead do not consider the difference in these baptisms. In the first case, that baptism which occurred in the upper room before the Apostle Peter preached on the day of Pentecost following our Lord Jesus’ resurrection, it was God the Son Who did the baptizing, while the Holy Spirit is the content with which the people were baptized.
The second case is found in the Apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, in which we are told that “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Apostle Paul also states in Romans 6:3–4 that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are baptized into Jesus Christ and baptized into His death. This also is that work by God the Holy Spirit in which He baptizes us into Jesus Christ, Who is God the Son. By simply distinguishing the Person doing the baptizing and what that baptism involves, we can distinguish these baptisms one from another and realize that they are not one and the same.
The differences in these baptisms also may explain the different modes, and the differences of meanings that denominations draw between themselves regarding water baptism. Among those that adhere to the “sprinkling”, or “pouring” mode, they can find justification for their particular mode in this:
Acts 2:16–18 — “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy…”
So if a specific denominations sees baptism as a symbol of the giving of the Spirit, it makes perfect sense that this is the way that these denominations practice baptism. It also makes perfect sense that these think that they are correct as opposed to those that practice immersion, or dunking. We will speak more on the immersion baptism a little later. Please see the entry from Lewis Sperry Chafer on “Ritual Baptism” at the link here to read some more on this. He does a very good job in examining both sides of the “mode of baptism” argument.
As we get back to the subject at hand, remember we are not talking about symbols, but about real baptisms, one that is administered by the Son, and one that is administered by the Holy Spirit. Please carefully read the three accounts below, John the Baptist prophesying of another baptism, different from the baptism that he was administering:
Matthew 3:11–12 — “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Mark 1:8 — “I indeed have baptized you with water: but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.“
Luke 3:15–17 — “And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I cometh, the latchet of Whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable.”
Please note that in these above references, the baptism with the Holy Ghost and the baptism with fire are not the same. The baptism with fire is clearly defined: “He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” This is not, and it cannot, be thought of as a “believer’s baptism”, for it is clearly an “unbeliever’s baptism”. This is the subject of the book of the Revelation. I realize that in William P. Mackay’s hymn, “Revive Us Again”, the song ends with a prayer that each soul would be rekindled with fire from above, but that is not what we wish for. Fire from above is judgment!
Note also, very clearly stated, the One said to be doing the baptizing. It is “He that cometh after me”. This is John the Baptist speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ, coming in the flesh as God’s Christ, or Messiah, or Anointed, or Chosen. “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost…”
So it should not surprise us that as we open the book of Acts, we read indeed that the disciples of the Lord should still expect this to happen; and the Lord told them to wait for it:
Acts 1:4–5 — “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”
When these were baptized with the Holy Ghost, it did not happen because they were extra faithful (we all are aware that Peter denied that he even knew the Lord a few days earlier), or because they prayed for the Holy Ghost to come. They were baptized with the Holy Ghost because the Father promised to do so. Among other promises, the following passage from Ezekiel shows a promise of God that this baptism of the Holy Ghost surely is a foretaste:
Ezekiel 36:22–27 — “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine Holy Name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify My great Name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.”
When these were baptized with the Holy Ghost, it is said that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). There was no question as to whether it was really happening or not. The devout Jews dwelling at Jerusalem out of “every nation under heaven”, gathered for the “Feast of weeks”, or Shavuot, did not know what was happening, but it was very obvious that something was happening.
This promise of the Father had everything to do with the coming Kingdom — “Lord wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) was the question asked by the disciples on the way to the mount of Ascension (the Mount of Olives). These were all signs of that coming Kingdom, or “powers of the world (age) to come” (Hebrews 6:5). When offering this Kingdom to the people of Israel in Acts 3, Peter called this Kingdom “the times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19), and “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). As we found in the ministry of John the Baptist and that of our Lord, this Kingdom was proclaimed “at hand”. Now it was being fully offered! So the signs that came with it would witness to that fact, but the nation as a whole resisted the Holy Ghost (Acts 7:51), and sent the message after the King, “We will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).
But hid in God, there was another baptism in which the Holy Spirit was the administrator:
1 Corinthians 12:12–14 — “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.”
In this baptism, the Holy Spirit is not thoroughly saturating every member of the body of Christ with “signs and wonders”, but He is thoroughly putting all of us who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation, His death for our sins and His resurrection, into Christ, so that we are absolutely identified with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection:
Romans 6:3–4 — ” Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
This is a fact that is accomplished by God. The question “Know ye not?” indicates that many may not have known it. It is true whether we understand and acknowledge it or not. But knowing the fact should truly affect us in walk and in unity with other believers:
Galatians 3:26–29 — “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Ephesians 4:1–6 — “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye 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.”
It is truly this “one baptism” that makes us “complete in Him”:
Colossians 2:11–12 — “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.”
Note too that in the passages above regarding the “believer’s baptism” into Christ, the word “water” is not even mentioned. It is a difficult thing for many to separate the idea baptism apart from water, especially in “religious” discussions, but it certainly does not have to involve water. This baptism identifies the believer so fully with Christ, that the Apostle Paul could say:
Galatians 2:20 — “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
Those that allow only “immersion baptism” think of it as only signifying this, but it must be remembered that this is not about a “symbol”, but a reality. The Holy Spirit does actually baptize us into Christ, and this is not spoken of an action that should be repeated in a symbol. That of which it is said “this do in remembrance of Me”, is not a water ceremony, but “the Lord’s Supper”, as described in 1 Corinthians 11. It is that in which we “show the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
In closing this discussion, I want to let you know that YOU can be baptized into Christ, and the Holy Spirit will do it when YOU believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, how that He died for your sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, Romans 4:25, Acts 16:31). What is YOUR answer to this gracious invitation from the Lord?