John 1:29-32 Pt. 2
And then he states that not the waters held any power of healing, nor John’s own power; but rather that he baptized with water so that Christ would be revealed to the nation of Israel. So, for what reason did John use baptism to draw the people? That they could see and learn the difference between the baptism of man and the baptism of Jesus, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. So often we see baptism in absentia of the Holy Spirit, with some churches not even evoking His name during their baptism. So often, even in Scripture, we see those who are baptized into the baptism of John the Baptist. In the Book of Acts alone, we see two such examples. We learn of the Church in Samaria, about whom it is written, “the apostles heard that Samaria had received the word of God, (so) they sent Peter and John…who prayed that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet, He had not fallen upon any of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17). And again, when Paul visits Apollos, the disciples ask him, “‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ So they said, ‘we had not so much as heard that there was a Holy Spirit’…when Paul laid hands on them they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 9:2,7). See, it’s this idea, confirmed by Scripture, that mere baptism alone does not confer the Holy Spirit. So often we see people who are baptized and immediately consider their baptism sealed by the Holy Spirit, and this idea that the laying on of hands to receive the Spirit is foreign to us in the West. And yet, when we look in Scripture, it is plainly announced to be truth. It is this idea that John states when he says, “I baptize with water, but He with the Holy Spirit,” and twice affirmed in the Book of Acts alone.
This purely symbolic baptism that we in the West so frequently believe is this exact baptism of John the Baptist, it is the baptism of water, the baptism of man; it is a baptism that is a necessary first step, the Forerunner of salvation; but if it never goes beyond that first step, with no anointing of the Holy Spirit, then it is little more than a tradition of man which has only the power to effect whatever change we, in our carnal willpower, can achieve. It is little wonder that so many in the West, in our generation, disbelieve in the supernatural, the miraculous, power of the Holy Spirit. We never receive Him into our life; we disbelieve in the very means through which we are able to receive Him. Try to ask a Protestant pastor about the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit and see the accusations of heresy that they would level against the idea, and yet, it is this very idea which we see affirmed in Scripture. In denying this Sacrament, they deny the very image that we see in Scripture. I’ve so often made the comment that, in our generation, in the West, the Holy Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Bible; yet even that is made flawed by the fact that most of Western Christianity takes very little of Holy Scripture at face value. The very ones who will argue that creation was in six twenty-four hour days are the same ones who decree that there is no prayer of faith that will heal the sick, in direct contradiction to the teaching of James in the Holy Scripture. They are the same who will decree that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit have completely ceased, and that salvation is a one time decision which need not yield any form of change in the life of the one making the decision. They teach faith alone in absentia of works, ignoring the Book of James who teaches the exact opposite, that faith without works is dead. In fact, they have gone so far as to proclaim that even the faith which they claim saves is a faith that we play no part in, as it is a faith which we are given and thus given no choice in the matter. It is the teaching that God alone chooses who He will and won’t save, giving us no part to play, ignoring the teachings of both Peter and Paul that God wills that no man should perish but that all will come to repentance. To claim that God wills that no man should perish and then teach that God chooses who He will save regardless of our decisions is to claim that He doesn’t have the power to save everyone that He chooses, rather than to say that He has given us the will to choose salvation.
We must be so careful not to fall victim to this. All of Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), not just certain parts, and we must be careful of any individual who would twist something to mean that which it obviously doesn’t mean. There are many wise and great theologians from whom we can learn, however, we must never allow their words of wisdom and interpretation to supercede the words of God Himself. From Chrysostom to Basil to Augustine to Gregory of Nyssa, through Watson and Packer, Lewis and Moody, Macarthur and Chan; each of them has many words of wisdom that we should heed and allow the Lord to use as a tool to help us grow in our knowledge of God. However, we should be especially guarded when we hear the words, “what this means is…” because at that very moment, Scripture is no longer our authority, they themselves are. That’s why it’s ever so important that we keep the teachings that the Church has upheld for thousands of years, so that we can test the teachings of these men against the teachings of the Church and compare it to see if a particular teaching is a true interpretation or not. There is a reason that Spurgeon is quoted as saying, “a Bible-reading Christian will seldom fall into modern theology.” And the very reason for this is the loss of the history and tradition of the Church, which for 1500 years stood to guard against human corruption, and the removal of this doctrine left the gates unguarded against the wisdom of the age. Spurgeon himself recognized the danger of allowing modern concepts into the Church, and realized the dangers that come from allowing “modern theology” to enter into our faith. When we seek any answer hard enough in Scripture, using whatever means and interpretations we need, then we can find whatever answer we wish. It is through the traditions of the Church that the integrity of Scripture is maintained, because it is those various traditions which are uncorrupted by whatever current events are happening in the world. You need go no further than same sex marriage to see the effect of allowing modern theology and interpretation to enter into our own theology. Or think of the number of Southern churches who, in the earlier years of the West, used Scripture to justify racism and slavery.
When we look to Scripture, we see many things which are harder for us, in our carnal minds, in our wisdom of the age, to understand. The proper answer to this is never to find our own deeper meaning, pridefully thinking ourselves wiser than thousands of years of wise annointed men of God. Rather, we should see to obediently find the answer through reading Holy Scripture and looking to the traditions of the Church to see what is and isn’t of God. It isn’t the easiest way, and it is very adamantly opposed to our natural tendency towards independence; but very few could argue the point that I heard from Francis Chan. When you look at the Church in America and then read about the Church and the worship in the New Testament, the two don’t even closely resemble the same entity. And it is because we have lost the very teachings which have been handed down for centuries. Baptism, in the Scripture, is crucial to salvation. However, as we see, baptism in absentia of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the laying on of hands, produces a cold, powerless morality and little else. We are baptized for the remission of our sins, and we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. That which follows, however, according to Scripture, is the reception of the Holy Spirit, who is our Holy King, Heavenly Comforter, who will lead us in the way that we must go.
May the peace of the Lord be with you, my beloved family.