Baptism is the rite of Christian introduction (Initiation). In Romans 6, Paul made it clear that it is the rite of justification by grace through faith. Baptism is not the enemy of repentance or belief or conversion - it is a partner. In the New Testament, it is the covenant between God's grace and the answer (Reaction) of man. There is only ONE baptism (Eph. 4: 5).
There are three aspects of the introduction that must be present for the Christian introduction to be complete. All three aspects do not have to happen at the same time or in the same order. But all are necessary.
- Repentance and faith - are the human side in the Christian introduction. We make the decision to accept Christ.
- Baptism - is the church side. The baptismal candidate is admitted to the externally visible community of the Christian Church.
- The gift of the Holy Spirit - is the divine side. God renews us.
Baptism with the Holy Spirit
There are only 7 references to baptism with the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. All these mentions describe - with no exceptions - how someone becomes a Christian. John baptized people to repent, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. That's what God did at Pentecost and has always done since then. Nowhere in the New Testament does the phrase baptism in or with the Holy Spirit be used to describe the equipment of those with special power who are already Christians. It is always used as a figurative phrase of how to become a Christian at all.
The references are:
Mark. 1: 8 - parallel places are in Matth. 3: 11; Luk. 3: 16; Joh. 1: 33
Acts 1: 5 - where Jesus shows the contrast between John's pre-Christian baptism and his own baptism in the Holy Spirit, and promises a quick fulfillment that happened at Pentecost.
Acts 11:16 - this points back to that (see above) and is again clearly introductory.
1. Cor. 12: 13 - makes it clear that it's the Spirit that beats someone first in Christ.
What is conversion?
At every baptism, 4 has general principles that are effective:
- God touches a person's conscience (there is an awareness of need and / or guilt).
- God enlightens the mind (a basic understanding of the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection).
- God touches the will (you have to make a decision).
- God begins the process of transformation.
The Christian conversion has three faces and they do not necessarily show up all at once.
- Conversion to God (we turn back to God).
- Conversion to church (Love for fellow Christians).
- Conversion / turning to the world (we turn back to reach outside).
When are we converted?
Not only does conversion have three faces, it also has three phases:
- We were converted after God's decision of the Father, after we were chosen to love in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1: 4-5). Christian conversion is rooted in the select love of God, the God who knows the end from the beginning, and the initiative of our reaction (Answer) always precedes.
- We were converted when Christ died on the cross. That was the archetypal reversal of humanity back to God when the dividing wall of sin was torn down (Eph. 2: 13-16).
- We were converted when the Holy Spirit really made us aware of things and we responded to them (Eph. 1: 13).