WHAT ABOUT JOHN THE BAPTIST AND BAPTISM?
Wayne S. Walker
Question: “Didn’t John the Baptist teach that after Christ came,
instead of being baptized in water, we should be believe and repent to be
saved by the blood of Christ, and then Christ would baptize us in the
Holy Spirit so that we could receive the gift of God?”
The passage referred to in the question is Matthew 3.11 where John
the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but
He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not
worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
First, we must remember that John the Baptist was sent to prepare the
Jewish people for the coming of the Messiah, and so he said nothing about
the terms of salvation after the death of Christ. The contrast here is
NOT between John’s baptism which was in water, and the baptism of the
great commission, which was also in water, but between John’s baptism
which was for the Jews and the baptism of the Holy Spirit which would be
for those to whom Christ promised and gave it.
According to Luke 7.30, not everyone to whom John spoke were
baptized by him. Thus, there is no reason to assume that everyone to
whom Christ spoke would be baptized by the Holy Spirit. So the real
question is, to whom did Christ promise the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
In Acts 1.1-2 we are told that Jesus was talking with the apostles and in
verse 5 said, “For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be
baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
The ONLY people to whom the baptism of the Holy Spirit was ever
specifically promised were the apostles, and they received it on
Pentecost in Acts 2. From Acts 10 and 11 we learn that Cornelius and his
household received the like gift as at the beginning to show that God had
also granted the Gentiles salvation. There are absolutely NO other
accounts of anyone receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 8 and other places we do learn that many Christians in the
first century did receive the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit through
the laying on of the apostles’ hands. The purpose of these gifts was to
reveal and confirm the word in the absense of a completed written
revelation. So when the word was fully revealed and confirmed in written
form, the miraculous gifts passed away (1 Corinthians 13.8-10).
Furthermore, there are no living apostles today to lay hands on anyone.
It is true that all Christians even today receive the non-miraculous
gift or influence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. But it is not
through being baptized in the Holy Spirit. We read in Acts 2.38, “Then
Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the
name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the
gift of the Holy Spirit.'” When we believe the gospel, repent of our
sins, and are baptized in water because Christ commanded it, we receive
remission of sins or salvation; and then we can receive the benefits of
the Holy Spirit in our lives. (From “Search for Truth,” April, 1997).
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