What is baptism?

Baptism is the rite of Christian 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 faith or conversion - it is a partner. In the New Testament, it is the covenant between God's grace and the response 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 reveals the contrast between John's pre-Christian baptism and his own baptism in the Holy Spirit, promising a speedy fulfillment at Pentecost.
Acts. 11: 16 - this refers back to it (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 the conscience of a person (there is an awareness of need and / or guilt).
  • God enlightens the mind (a basic understanding of the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ).
  • 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 / turning to God (we turn to God).
  • Conversion / turning to the church (love for the fellow Christians).
  • Conversion / turning to the world (we turn around to reach outward).

When are we converted?

Not only does conversion have three faces, it also has three phases:

  • We were converted according to the counsel of God the Father, having been chosen in love to be predestined in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1: 4-5). Christian conversion is rooted in the electing love of God, the God who knows the end from the beginning and whose initiative always precedes our response.
  • We were converted when Christ died on the cross. This was the archetypical conversion 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).