Last Sabbath with "Opening for the Church," we began a study of God's church in the book of Acts. But we can go no farther without considering the necessity of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus spoke of it. It is found in all four of the gospels. John's baptism of repentance is linked to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
At the very beginning of the New Testament we learn about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is portrayed as a future event. Matthew 3:5-12:
Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, 'Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father." For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 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. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?' But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'
The Baptism of John
There are two kinds of baptism in Scripture. The baptism of repentance is called John's baptism. Its feature is turning, teshuvah, repentance. Hebrew thought is very concrete. To repent is like walking exactly west down a street and then to stop and turn and proceed directly east--an exact 180 degree turn.
Confession of sin is associated with the baptism of repentance. When we are baptised, we are admitting we have been morally wrong. We are agreeing that condemnation for having sinned is just. The baptism of repentance has a part of vindicating God's character, for the individual and community are gathered, agreeing together that sin is sin and is justly condemned.
Similar material is seen in Mark chapter one and Luke chapter three. But let's look at John's gospel for one item before returning to the book of Acts. Consider John 1:33-34:
I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "Upon whom you see the spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God."
Who is the source for our being baptized by the Holy Spirit? Jesus. Jesus has a gift for us. He wants to baptize us with the Holy Spirit. This agrees with John's statement in Matthew, where John says, "But He who is coming after me [Jesus], will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
But now repentance, confession, and forgiveness is only one part; there is also the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
After His resurrection, Jesus told believers to wait together for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which would occur in only a few days (Acts 1:5). In Peter's sermon on Pentecost, he gives this instruction in Acts 2:38-39:
Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let everyone 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. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.'
In the New Testament we find two baptisms, sometimes differentiated, others almost mingled. The second is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:44-48 and 11:16, where the gift of the Holy Spirit is poured out upon non-Jews, Peter calls for these also to receive also water baptism.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an essential gift. Look again at the command of Jesus in Acts 1:4-5, 8:
And being assembled together with them, He [Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. . . . But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.'
They were to wait for God to send the Holy Spirit in fullness. They were to be ready to be bathed in the Holy Spirit, immersed. They would receive authority to act for the kingdom. This was a new degree of authority, since they did not then possess so much authority. Now He would give it. Wonderful days were imminent. Battle would be joined!
Insights From Acts of the Apostles
We will return to our first text, but first remarkable insight from Ellen White's book, Acts of the Apostles. We start with this from p. 31:
The Saviour knew that no argument, however logical, would melt hard hearts or break through the crust of worldliness and selfishness. He knew that His disciples must receive the heavenly endowment; that the gospel would be effective only as it was proclaimed by hearts made warm and lips made eloquent by a living knowledge of Him who is the way, the truth, and the life.
Did you catch that? If you could make your best argument for someone to accept Jesus, and use the most perfect, complete, clear logic possible--if you could have God Himself write out each word for you to produce exactly the most effective, persuasive argument that could be made--that would not be enough to break through the crust. We need the heavenly endowment, the supernatural help from God. Yet even that alone will not avail. What we say and do for people must be proclaimed by "hearts made warm and lips made eloquent by a living knowledge" of Jesus. We must be actually converted ourselves.
What will we see when we are in accord with each other in the Spirit of Christ? We'll see and experience just what the church in the book of Acts experienced: Page 48:
Every Christian saw in his brother a revelation of divine love and benevolence. One interest prevailed; one subject of emulation swallowed up all others. The ambition of the believers was to reveal the likeness of Christ's character and to labor for the enlargement of His kingdom.
We will no longer see each other with suspicion but see God's love expressed in each other. All will be seeking more likeness to Jesus in character. Personal striving, personal castle-making will be ended. We will not be jealous of others. We will not be speaking of them behind their backs. We will let private agendas go and work together for the good of our congregation, the local manifestation of the church of God.
We are engaged in all or nothing battle. Either we will be victorious, or Satan will succeed in robbing us of our Christian experience. Listen to this from pp. 49-50:
As they witnessed for truth and righteousness they were repeatedly assailed by the enemy of all truth, who sought to rob them of their Christian experience. They were compelled to strive with all their God-given powers to reach the measure of the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. Daily they prayed for fresh supplies of grace, that they might reach higher and still higher toward perfection. Under the Holy Spirit's working even the weakest, by exercising faith in God, learned to improve their entrusted powers and to become sanctified, refined, and ennobled. As in humility they submitted to the molding influence of the Holy Spirit, they received of the fullness of the Godhead and were fashioned in the likeness of the divine.
Satan will resist you maximally and subtily. If he can, he will rob you of your very Christian experience. This is a real battle. But Jesus gives you everything you need to wage it successfully. Look how high is His goal for you! As did the early believers, we should reach "higher and still higher toward perfection." God will take the weakest of the weak, and defeat Satan through their God-given, active faith.
Then there is this. What would it take for me, personally, to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Page 50:
If all were willing, all would be filled with the Spirit. Wherever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thought of, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death. Whenever minor matters occupy the attention, the divine power which is necessary for the growth and prosperity of the church, and which would bring all other blessings in its train, is lacking, though offered in infinite plenitude.
Since this is the means by which we are to receive power, why do we not hunger and thirst for the gift of the Spirit? Why do we not talk of it, pray for it, and preach concerning it? The Lord is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who serve Him than parents are to give good gifts to their children. For the daily baptism of the Spirit every worker should offer his petition to God.
Have you been praying daily for the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Here is something we can add to our prayer life starting today, March 28, 2020, and keep on doing until Jesus comes!
What is Holiness?
Of course, there can be no baptism of the Holy Spirit without holiness. This chapter includes a stimulating definition of holiness--one thing it is not and seven things that it is. page 51:
It is not a conclusive evidence that a man is a Christian because he manifests spiritual ecstasy under extraordinary circumstances. Holiness is not rapture: it is an entire surrender of the will to God; it is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; it is doing the will of our heavenly Father; it is trusting God in trial, in darkness as well as in the light; it is walking by faith and not by sight; it is relying on God with unquestioning confidence, and resting in His love.
We were designed for holiness. That is the only thing that can ultimately be fulfilling to us. Check this list:
- Entire surrender of the will to God
- Living by every word, every command that comes from God
- Doing the will of our heavenly Father
- Trusting God in trial
- Walking by faith and not by sight
- Relying on God with unquestioning confidence
- Resting in God's love
If we are going to carry on the legacy of God's New Testament church, we must take more than a passing interest in holiness. Notice these pieces:
Holiness is entire surrender to the will of God. Think of all that this implies! It says that we will seek out God's will. Not the will of this human person or that, this favorite preacher or that, but we want to know what is God's will; we want to know what He wants us to do. That means we will be Bible people; the Bible will be our watchword. We will read it, study it, seek it out, examine it, consider it, digest it, soak in it, embrace it, and actually do it.
Some fear what they call legalism, but we will not be swayed by their worries. We will live by every command God gives us. The original language here does not mean every distinct word, or sequence of letters, but every command unit. So in the Bible God tells us His commands in sentences. We will want to know what is His command, and then do it, and then be blessed. We receive no merit because we obey, but we should obey Him because He is Lord.
Emphasis here is on doing, walking, movement, progress forward. And when we think about it, Jesus' ministry was a very busy one. He seemed constantly moving from one end of the country to the other. We also should be continuously travelling with Jesus. We don't want to miss blessings only to be found in Jesus' company.
Trusting God in trial speaks to the necessity of endurance on our part. We must learn how to successfully navigate our way through every trial and every test. Jesus will walk with us if we will only make an effort to be where He is. Revelation 14:4 speaks of last generation believers as those who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes."
Before we gave our hearts to Jesus we learned to live by what we see. But when we choose to be His disciples, we are on a totally different plan. Now, trust is involved. We no longer relate to the world as a collection of objects in our way, but now see ourselves as God-designed, valuable to Him, made in His image, designed for holiness, designed to be like God. Now trust becomes an issue. Now we share our lives with eternity and holiness in view. This is how the early church lived. This is how we live when we are daily baptized by the Holy Spirit.
If we have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we will look to God with unquestioning confidence. We have settled it in our hearts that He can be trusted. He stretched out His arms on the cross for us. He has proven His trustworthiness. He died for us (Romans 5:6, 8) while we were ungodly and sinners. It is fashionable to question God these days. God asks us to trust Him.
Finally, holiness means resting in God's love. This is perhaps the most difficult point to which we can arrive? We are inclined, as was Adam, to sew ourselves figleaf clothes and trust in our imaginations, systems, and dreams. But learning to love God completely is an experience we will never quite finish. Baptism by the Holy Spirit is a necessity if we learn rest in God's love.
What to Do for Jesus Now?
Hear this description of what we should do for Jesus from p. 55:
Those only who are constantly receiving fresh supplies of grace, will have power proportionate to their daily need and their ability to use that power. Instead of looking forward to some future time when, through a special endowment of spiritual power, they will receive a miraculous fitting up for soul winning, they are yielding themselves daily to God, that He may make them vessels meet for His use. Daily they are improving the opportunities for service that lie within their reach. Daily they are witnessing for the Master wherever they may be, whether in some humble sphere of labor in the home, or in a public field of usefulness.
If we want to experience the Holy Spirit, we need to be engaged in doing something for Him. We must find a way to be telling of His power, doing for the kingdom. If we are actually engaged in the warfare, He will suply us the needed power.
Gathering His Wheat into His Barn and Conclusion
But now let us return to the Scripture at the beginning today, for something we dare not miss. Return to Matthew 3:12. He will baptize us with water, and with fire. And when we have this experience, and we have given ourselves over to fully trusting Jesus, look at verse 12 again:
His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
He will finish what He has begun. He will test and sift each of us for our good. He knows who are His, whose hearts are fully trusting in Him. But some of us do not know ourselves well. Like Peter, we think that under testing we will stand heroically for Jesus, but actually our hearts continue polluted with earthliness and spiritual weakness. When God allows us to be tested, it is to help us. He wants us to realize our need, and draw closer to Him for present spiritual help. He will not permit us to be tempted beyond our ability to overcome in His strength.
He is thoroughly cleaning His threshing floor. He is harvesting His wheat, and He longs for us to be His wheat. He desires to gather us to safety, to a close and abiding connection with Himself. To clarify ourselves for Jesus, to make ourselves entirely His, we need both baptisms. We need the baptism of repentance and we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We need the baptism signified by water and the baptism signified by fire. For success in the mission He has assigned, we need all these things.
Every worker who follows the example of Christ will be prepared to receive and use the power that God has promised to His church for the ripening of earth's harvest. Morning by morning, as the heralds of the gospel kneel before the Lord and renew their vows of consecration to Him, He will grant them the presence of His Spirit, with its reviving, sanctifying power. As they go forth to the day's duties, they have the assurance that the unseen agency of the Holy Spirit enables them to be "laborers together with God" (p. 56).
Are we prepared to receive and use the power? It is not for our kingdom but for God's. For Jesus who wore the crown of thorns for us let us kneel before Him morning by morning and be revived. When we are baptized by the Holy Spirit, our life will testify that God is love to a world that still has hearts that can be changed by Jesus. How late, O how late, is this hour!
Muskegon-Fremont MI SDA churches via Zoom Livestream 2020-03-28