Last week in our discussion of baptism we visited the idea of “rebaptism,” and how some churches require those baptized as infants to be baptized again as adults. This week, we’ll continue by looking at a different kind of “second” baptism.
In Acts 19, Paul encounters a group of believers in Ephesus. He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So, Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:2-5). This is similar to what we see in Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16, where John the Baptist says, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
It appears that we are talking about two different kinds of baptism, one by water and one by the Holy Spirit. So, does that mean we need to be baptized again, and if so, what does that look like? It can get confusing in light of what we read in Ephesians 4, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
The baptism that John the Baptist conducted, that Jesus experienced, was a token baptism that foreshadowed what would be perfectly completed in Christ. Peter makes this clear in 1 Peter 3:21, “And this water symbolizes the baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Baptism in water is a profession of repentance and faith, and symbolic of what Jesus would accomplish for us. In that sense, Jesus did not need a water baptism, but had John baptize Him anyway, saying, “Let it be so now. It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness in this way” (Matthew 3:15). When Jesus came up out of the water, “the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove” (Luke 3:22).
That outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the key here. When we come to faith in Jesus, whether in public or private confession, and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we are filled with the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit. At the Day of Pentecost, Peter said to the crowd, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Thus, baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs when we come to faith. Again, some denominations may disagree with this, but there is really no need for a “second” baptism in the Holy Spirit other than a profession of faith. As we grow in faith, the Spirit grows within us to lead, guide, correct, counsel, sanctify and develop in us unique spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). We are called to live in this Spirit and not the flesh (Galatians 5:19-25), to help us live in obedience to God and glorify His name.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know.
Pastor Brad Schultz, Zion Evangelical Church, firstname.lastname@example.org.