Let’s rewind 2,000 years. I’m in the camp that believes understanding the Bible is not difficult. We have a wealth of resources at our fingertips plus the author Himself has offered to teach us. And even better than that, He is on speed dial 24/7 (John 14:26). One practice though that has changed the game for me in regards to reading God’s word is putting myself in the context of which it was written. Today we are going to do that.
We have talked a lot on The Disciplemaking Challenge about how we don’t need the newest, up-to-date method of disciple making. We don’t need to get a four year seminary degree either. These things can help when stewarded well. However there are far too many believers who are convinced they cannot make a kingdom impact, when all they need to do is say yes with even the little bit they do have! The reality is, it is His work before it is ours, and it was God who hand picked a bunch of untrained foul mouth fisherman to change the world.
This is what John the Baptist was communicating when he started baptizing people. And this is what Jesus consummated when He said He came to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. First let’s look at John.
John’s baptism was controversial. We see a conflict formulate in the conversation between him and the Pharisees. They came to John to challenge his ministry. In summary John’s response was, What fruit do you bear in your life? Don’t you even think that just because of your family line and traditions that you’re a child of God. God can raise up children even from rocks! (Paraphrase my own)
This is why John baptized. In a day when legitimacy came from the family or tradition you were born into, John was proclaiming a regeneration through repentance and washing with water. Where the Pharisees practiced washing as a form of purification, John was proclaiming a different type of washing where it was the work of God who changed you, not the rituals, traditions or family line you came from.
Baptism symbolized when God first miraculously brought the Jews of out Israel. Like Moses who depended on God to bring the Jews through the split sea, John was proclaiming a new birth, a different way.
We can also see this plainly in the Greek. There are two meanings in Greek for the word translated as baptism. Baptizo is the Greek word and it can mean to submerge in water and is also used to describe a ceremonial washing. The word can also be used to describe the process of pickling. These two meanings can look very similar, a substance is submerged, washed in water, but one results in a clean appearance where the other is a changed substance.
Just like the Pharisees who took pride in their work, their system, their own ceremonial washings, their baptizo, John proclaimed a different baptizo. John’s proclamation of baptizo was the work of God changing you. It was a moment of transformation not construed by man or a tradition. It was a moment where God broke in.
This is what Jesus consummated. Notice that during His ministry He didn’t baptize but His disciples did (See John 4:2). This is because the baptism that John proclaimed, Jesus consummated. Jesus’ baptism happened after His resurrection and ascension (See Acts 2). It was the baptism that came from God not man. It was the moment of Holy Spirit breaking in.
This post is not saying we need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I understand there are various definitions we have created around this. That conversation is for another day, and medium. I am proclaiming the principle here. What Jesus was about was the work of God, not the work of man. We are important ingredients in the recipe, but we aren’t the chef. We don’t make it happen. He does.
This is good news because it’s not about my accolades, giftedness, or charisma. It just requires a step forward in faith that it is His work before it’s ours.
Ask someone this week how you can pray for them. Then right then and there pray and ask God to break in and work. If it’s for physical healing, check if they are healed. If it’s for something else like a family situation, follow up in a few days. Pray expecting God to move.
Yours in the journey,