"This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established (II Corinthians 13.1)."
Probably in every century there have been those that have mistakenly taught that the Holy Ghost baptizes believers into Christ. We know there have been such opinions put forth the last three hundred years. Some of those promoting this view appear to go no farther with it; apparently satisfied they are puffing forth accepted doctrine. Others, however, contend that, not only is baptism by the Holy Ghost a reality, it answers to the one baptism spoken of by Paul, in Ephesians 4.5. We have personally heard this preached and found it amazing how, despite the speaker offering absolutely no proof from the Bible, many of those that listened were not disturbed by the error.
Not one place in the Word of God does anything appear to offer even a hint that the Holy Ghost baptizes. Or, for that matter, that He ever did in time past, or shall in the future.
By the Lord's assistance, we shall bring forth the witness from John the Baptist, Jesus Christ the Lord, Peter, the prophet Joel, and the apostle Paul to establish beyond reasonable controversy the Holy Ghost never baptized anyone or any group. It will also be shown that what is called the "baptism of the Holy Ghost" is really the baptism of the church by the Lord Jesus Himself.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
The first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) contain the record of many events, all which are instructive. Some events are sufficiently important that they are recorded in two of the books. Still more events were by the Lord deemed vital enough to be recorded in three books. Some few are of such magnitude that they are found in all four of the books, thus we may safely conclude they are not to be lightly viewed. Such is the matter of the Holy Ghost baptism. All four books record the message of John the Baptist pertaining to it. They are also in full agreement. There are no ambiguities in any of the records of John's declaration. We examine them in order:
1. "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matthew 3.11)." Before examining the text we point out that John had come to the wilderness preaching repentance, for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Matthew records that the prophet Isaiah had spoken of John as "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Multitudes had come to him there at Jordan and were baptized of him, confessing their sins. We seriously doubt that any but religious lunatics dare deny that John was baptizing with water. Those who reverence the obvious record also believe John not only used water to baptize; he dipped those who cameconfessing their sins. "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance."
I, John, was the baptizer. Water was the instrument; that in which he baptized. Repentance was the public basis. But - Another was to come after John. He too would baptize. The instrument employed by this One to come was the Holy Ghost and fire. These things are far too clear to be disputed. John baptized. He baptized with water. Another was coming to baptize. He would baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire. John was sent of the Father to prepare the way of the One that was sent to immerse His chosen with the promise made afore.
The Holy Ghost never baptized anyone. His mission was far different than that, (see John 16.13-15). Jesus Christ, the One to come after John, baptized, immersing with the Holy Ghost, just as John employed water to immerse.
In proper order we hope to examine the question, was John's baptism Christian baptism?
2. "I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost (Mark 1.8)." The record of Mark is practically identical to that of Matthew. John would baptize with water; Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost, we say again respectfully, did not baptize anyone. John baptized; Jesus baptized; the Holy Ghost did not baptize. It should be plain enough to those that fear the Lord that these first two texts respecting Holy Ghost baptism cannot lend support to, or bear witness for, those contending for the doctrine of the Holy Ghost baptizing believers into the Saviour. If such a doctrine is in the Bible, its proponent shall have to find the verses elsewhere.
3. "John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire (Luke 3.16)." Again, the record of Luke is remarkably similar to those of Matthew and Mark. All the elements we stressed from the first two are here the same. John and water. Jesus and the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost was no more the agent of baptism in the latter than water was the agent in the former. Both were instruments, utilized according to the will of God in the hands of those He sent to baptize respectively in their order.
We raise here a question concerning the notion the Holy Ghost baptizes believers into Jesus. If that is so, how dissimilar that baptism would be to John's baptism in water. John took the confessor down into the water and brought them up again out of the water. It was representative of the death, burial, and the resurrection of both our Lord and His whole flock. Accordingly then, if the Holy Ghost baptized believers into Jesus, just what would it signify? It could not be the resurrection, for the believer, once in Christ, shall never come out of Christ as one resurrected would come out of the grave. The idea is so strained we marvel there are those that claim it.
Neither will it do to say water baptism, currently still in use, is a figure of Holy Ghost baptism. The problems just described remain. Moreover, water baptism could never represent a birth, particularly the new birth. But it can, and beautifully does, represent a death, burial, and the resurrection.
4. "And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost (John 1.33)." Observe: "he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." The he is our Lord. He baptizeth with. Again, the Holy Ghost did not at any time baptize. It is nothing more than fantasy to say the Holy Ghost baptizes the believer into Christ.
At least three things are altogether clear from our examination in the first four books of the New Testament. First, John came baptizing with water. For that purpose he was sent from God. His baptism was fittingly received. Both Jesus and the future apostles freely submitted to immersion in water by his hands. Thus the chief cornerstone, and also the foundation stones of the church, received John's water baptism, and only John's baptism. Second, John prophesied that One, Jesus, was coming after him and He would baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire. Until this prophecy took place, the only baptism relevant to the church, mentioned in the four books, was water baptism by the hands of John the Baptist. Third, and of utmost importance, there was absolutely no mention whatever of the Holy Ghost having baptized, or going to baptize, anyone. Silence as quiet as the slumbering tomb lays on the record of these first four books. There was not, and there is not to be any baptism by the Holy Ghost.
"He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," is a long stretch from the Holy Ghost baptizing believers into Jesus in association with, or to consummate, the new birth.
"And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence (Acts 1.4,5)."
Having examined the account of the prophesy of a baptism with the Holy Ghost, as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we come now to the book of Acts. Once again we find early in the book the very same prophecy. This is the fifth time it is recorded - the first five books of the New Testament each containing this vital promise.
On this occasion Jesus is speaking. It is obvious from the text that it was not the first time the disciples had been drilled on this weighty matter; "...but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me" clearly shows the Lord had brought this to their attention previously.
"For John truly baptized with water..." is simply an assertive statement affirming the importance of the function of water baptism. Truly means only that John verily or indeed did baptize. That was why he went out into the wilderness. Should we attempt to elevate the meaning of the word truly beyond an assertion to a contrast between truth and error, it would not injure any little sheep. It would, however, be needless as regards our inquiry.
"But ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." There is one important distinction in this account of the coming Holy Ghost baptism: Jesus identified neither Himself nor the Holy Ghost as the baptizer, as the word with proves. (The word with is translated in in some marginal renderings. Neither word lends support to the notion the Holy Ghost was the baptizer.)
When John first began his ministry and announced the coming baptism of the Holy Ghost it was over three and one-half years away. Now Jesus announces it will be "not many days hence." So then, if we can learn nothing else from the record in Acts we may be certain of this: there was no Holy Ghost baptism for the period between John's initial pronouncement and the resurrection of our Lord. If those that contend the Holy Ghost baptized believers into Jesus ever had a dilemma, this is it. Since the Holy Ghost baptism still awaited fulfillment when Jesus addressed the disciples, shortly before His final return to heaven, then there could not possibly be anyone in Christ, according to that view, up to that moment, for none were yet baptized by the Holy Ghost. We would be genuinely interested in hearing an explanation on this crucial point.
THE APOSTLE PETER; THE PROPHET JOEL
Peter did not prophesy that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost as did John the Baptist and our Saviour. Rather, he corroborated their prophecies with the more ancient prophecy of Joel. When these marvelous events, recorded in the second chapter of Acts, transpired, some were confounded, (verse 6) some were amazed, (verse 7) some were in doubt, (verse 12) and still others mocked, accusing those affected by the descending of the Holy Ghost of being drunk, (verse 13). "But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day, But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams (Acts 2.14ff)."
This was the great occurrence Jesus predicted in Acts 1.5. It was also the event John the Baptist foretold when he baptized in the wilderness. We now have both the prophecy and the record before us when we open each of the first five books of the New Testament. Moreover, Peter identified this event with the ancient prophecy of Joel, where it was there recorded God would pour out of His Spirit. Now we hardly think that prophecy can be confused as a baptism by the Holy Ghost. What it was is made clear and obvious, not only by comparing the passages from John and Jesus prophesying, but from the elaboration of Peter upon the words of Joel. Peter expounded on this event from verse 14 of this 2nd chapter to verse 36. He positively identifies what took place, and by whom, in verses 32 and 33: "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." We call especial attention to the expression "he hath shed forth this." The he is Jesus, and the this is the Holy Ghost!
We have evaluated the account of the baptism of the Holy Ghost in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. In every instance where it was foretold, the language was incontestable; Jesus would baptize; the Holy Ghost would be that with which He would baptize. There was not one single text, directly or indirectly, that remotely suggested the Holy Ghost would ever baptize. The event itself was beyond dispute - it came to pass in perfect harmony with all the prophesies. There was a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting (Acts 2.2). This verse, taken alone, might lend some scanty support to the hypothesis, but Peter closes the door emphatically upon the subject when he attributed what took place to Jesus, Who was exalted to the right hand of the Father, thus He "...shed forth this, [the Holy Ghost] which ye now see and hear (Acts 2.33)."
As Peter concluded his discourse, the multitude were pricked in their heart. They cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do (Acts 2.37)?" Be aware - the answer Peter gave came only hours after the whole house had been baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire. If then, the baptism of the Holy Ghost is the one true baptism, what Peter told the multitude made no sense whatever. Peter instructed the whole of them to be baptized in water. "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2.27f)."
The response was not what some few pseudo-Greek scholars would have desired. No sir, it was not! "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls (Acts 2.41)." Here were thousands, fresh from personally experiencing and observing the baptism with the Holy Ghost. They did not say, "Enough! we have just been baptized." Rather, they joyfully submitted to the privilege accorded believers. They were baptized in water by the apostles the same day they were baptized with the Holy Ghost by Jesus.
If the concept that the Holy Ghost baptizes believers into Christ is so, and the church is the body of Christ, then to what were the three thousand added? Would not the Holy Ghost baptism already have added them to Christ, hence the church as well? So much for the logic of those that would attempt to add to God's Word with the notion that the Holy Ghost baptizes.
THE APOSTLE PETER
After the events at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost which had fully come, the Scriptures record nothing else regarding baptism until Philip went to Samaria, Acts 8.12. Following that, Philip baptized the eunuch at Gaza. Next Paul is baptized at Damascus. While other cases of conversions were mentioned, nothing is recorded about their baptism, but consistency requires we understand they were indeed baptized, as were all others. Then, under the direction of the Lord, Acts 10.19-20, Peter went to the house of Cornelius, the centurion of the band called the Italian band. These people were Gentiles. It was in the home of this Gentile soldier that we find proof positive of the meaning and intent of Holy Ghost baptism. Peter was discoursing and:
"While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10.44, 4Sf)." In the above quote we made bold-face the word also. The word also makes it positive that what took place at the home of Cornelius had occurred previously. Peter responds to the incident: "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we (Acts 10.47)?"
Who, Peter challenges, can forbid water? Yes, water is called for, and that immediately after the hearers of the words of Peter had just received also the Holy Ghost "as well as we." It is clear, crystal clear, Peter did not hold any of the notions on baptism being pawned off today as good currency. But there is more!
"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days (Acts 10.48)." Brother Peter did not simply lay down a challenge to those craving to subvert the blessed privilege of baptism. He positively commanded those newly baptized with the Holy Ghost to lay down their lives in the water-grave and come forth in the Name of the Lord.
We cannot find in Scriptures where this bold assertion of Peter met any objection. Nor was it rescinded by himself or others. We conclude the imperative remains vital today.
Upon returning to Jerusalem, Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning and expounded it by order unto them. As he continued he came to this: "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost (Acts 11.15, 16)." The words "as on us at the beginning" make it certain. Peter believed the two events, first on the day of Pentecost, and second at the home of Cornelius, to be inseparable. Moreover, it brought to his mind the very words of Jesus where He foretold them of the coming event of Him baptizing them with the Holy Ghost, as distinguished from the water baptism of John. Thus there was water baptism before the baptism of the Holy Ghost and there was water baptism after the Holy Ghost baptism. It can only be concluded that water baptism was, and is, the baptism relevant to the church. Holy Ghost baptism was a special event - one designed to empower the church as God had promised, Gentile and Jewish church alike as one. It has comes and it has gone. It affected the saints both at Jerusalem and world-wide. This is certain from the Holy Ghost being sent to the believers in the home of Cornelius as well as believers at Jerusalem in the beginning. That is exactly what Peter intended in Acts 11.15.
We have examined every text in the Bible except one which relates directly or indirectly to the subject of Holy Ghost baptism. We have ranged through the period from John baptizing in the wilderness to Peter baptizing the household of Cornelius. None but infidels would dare dispute the record: there is no baptism by the Holy Ghost into the body of Christ. Indeed we are born of the Spirit in (not into) the body, but that is a far cry from being baptized into the body. The record stands.
There is yet one text to be examined. Honesty admits of no contradictions in the Word of God. Having such a positive testimony from the first five books of the New Testament on this subject, we must conclude that whatever the final text says, it must be in perfect harmony with all the others. We dare not take one verse on a subject and interpret six or seven with the one. NO! We will understand the one in the light of the six or seven, and not the reverse. Thankfully, we have no such problem here, for Paul, while not so clear as the others, by no means contradicts them.
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (I Corinthians 12.12, 13)."
We know that there was a baptism of the Holy Ghost. We know too there was water baptism before and after the fulfillment of the former. So then, Paul must be speaking of water baptism since the baptism of the Holy Ghost was past. He has clearly told us there is one (1) baptism: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4.5)." Hence if the baptism of I Corinthians 12 was a Holy Ghost baptism Paul would not only be contradicting Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Jesus, he would as well be contradicting himself in the Ephesian letter.
It may be argued from this that Paul could not be speaking of literal water baptism then, for literal water baptism does not put us in the one body. Yes and no is our firm answer. Yes, he was speaking of literal water baptism; no, he was not speaking of that baptism literally putting us in the one body. He was speaking figuratively of the literal water baptism putting us in the one body.
The emphasis should be on the one body, and not on the baptism. The distinction Paul addressed was that both Jew and gentile were partakers in one body, and whether they were Greeks, Romans, Samaritans or Hebrews, they have been all made to drink into one Spirit. The middle wall of partition was down. All were one in Christ.
We cannot see that additional comments from us would make the matter more plain. Those that are blessed to submit to the record from on high will not rally to novel doctrines that subvert the ancient message to the children of God. May the King of Zion be praised for the blessed gift He has given His bride in baptism, for it is there we may show forth our union with His death, burial, and resurrection.
The evidence that John's baptism is Christian baptism must wait for another time as our remarks on Holy Ghost baptism exceeded our poor intentions.
J. F. Poole
Volume 12, No.1 - January-February, 1998