“John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’” ~Luke 3:16
John the Baptist launched his ministry as the forerunner to the Messiah with preaching the likes of which people had never heard before. His messages were so confrontational and penetrating that the crowds were convicted to the core of their being. People from every dimension of Jewish society began to repent and return to the God of Israel. Israel was in the midst of a great revival.
This spiritual awakening was so powerful that people began to wonder if John himself was the long-awaited Messiah. But John quickly put those rumors to rest by letting them know that his ministry was simply to lead people to repentance in preparation for the Messiah. It would be the Messiah’s ministry that would empower them with the very Spirit of God.
The Message version of Luke’s account offers this rendition:
“I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
The ministry of the Messiah was not simply to announce and launch the Kingdom of God on Planet Earth. Rather, it was to so immerse his followers in the Holy Spirit that they themselves would embody the words and carry out the works of Jesus, and as King’s agents, extend his Kingdom “to the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Now the real question for those of us reading these words today is this: Is the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire something you just read about historically, or is it an experience that is personal and fresh in your life today?
The truth is, despite all the misgivings and discomfort modern Christians may have about this baptism with the Holy Spirit, we cannot simply erase this important dimension of Christ’s ministry from the pages of Scripture. To paraphrase D.L. Moody, to remove the work of the Holy Spirit from the Bible is like using a sundial by moonlight.
Jesus is still the baptizer with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still the one who empowers believers to do words and works of Jesus.
And Paul’s question to the Ephesians in Acts 19:2 is as critically important for you today as it was for them nearly 2,000 years ago: “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?”
If you haven’t, perhaps you should spend some time with the Great Baptizer and ask him for the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus himself has said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth … how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (John 14:16-17, Luke 11:13)
“If Christians are forbidden to enjoy the wine of the Spirit they will turn to the wine of the flesh…Christ died for our hearts and the Holy Spirit wants to come and satisfy them.” ~A.W. Tozer