Spirit and Fire

John 1:19-28

19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John the Baptist was the one sent ahead of Christ to announce His coming.  The name “John” in itself in the original text is translated to mean “Jehovah is Gracious.”  How fitting that a man named John would be sent to exclaim how gracious He really is?  In digging into “baptism” we turn to the original Greek word that was used to describe it: ‘baptizo’ means to immerseplunge, dip, or bury in water.  It is the “burying” of oneself and rising up again that signifies the importance of baptism as an outward display of dying to the old self and rising up into a new life.  Anybody who has been baptized can associate with this.

It is interesting to note that John the Baptist was indeed “Elijah.”  This is drawn from two parts of scripture.  The first is the foretelling of the return of Elijah in Malachi 4:5-6 “ 5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with acurse.”  Whether John really knew his place or maybe he was humble and did not think himself to be held to the level of the prophet of Elijah is unknown.  What we do know, however, is Jesus laid this out later in His ministry as we read in Mathew 11:7-15 , “ 7 As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’palaces! 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,  ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’ 11 Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

My study bible notes that the religious leaders at the time considered the foretold Prophet and Christ were two separate people, however they are one in the same: Jesus.  This is a foreboding of sorts of Christ’s rejection by the Jews before He even arrives on the scene!

I am beginning to realize now the importance of four separate accounts of the Gospel.  In Mathew’s perspective, we see a more in depth conversation between John and the Pharisees.  In The Gospel of John, as I mentioned before, his viewpoint was Christ to show who Christ was, so it’s only common sense that he would kinda skim over these events to get to the “good stuff.”  In Mathew 3 we see John rebuking the religious zealots of the time because they think they know everything and are perfect, yet John lays it out for them and then he lays out this famous verse about baptism in Mathew 3:11, 11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

In having many conversations and studies on baptism in the past, I noticed (and experienced myself) the struggle between the meaning of baptism, the concept of “baptism with the Holy Spirit” and the physical act itself.  We recognize that salvation does not come from anything we can do or say, so why should we be baptized?  I’ve reached the following conclusions:

Getting dunked in water does not save you.

From the meaning of baptism I explained before, it is the burial and “rebirth” that we experience through the act of baptism.  This is why “being saved” often coincides with “born again.”  We recognize, however, that this rebirth is more than a physical recognition, rather it is a spiritual revelation.

In this spiritual transformation of becoming a believer of Christ, it is our first act of being a follower of Christ that we get to experience the physical incarnation of baptism as we recognize with Christ His death, burial, and resurrection.

In James 2, we read “26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”  In essence, the result of our spirituality is witnessed through how we act.  In the physical act of baptism, it is not the action that causes our heart to change, but rather our heart which is changed that causes us to act.  Those who truly are believers want to be baptized and recognize with their Savior.

If you want to be in this place, all you have to do is ask! Matthew 7:8,8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  For anyone who thinks this is not possible, we see it happen when Christ Himself rebukes a man for not believing that He can heal the sick.  The man immediately sought out God to help with his unbelief Mark 9:24 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Maybe you avoid this all together because you don’t know what to expect.  You don’t want God “screwing up” what you have going in your life.  My friends, nothing that you could ever experience in your life without God is even close to what blessings He has waiting for you once you seek Him out.

Maybe you once believed but now, not so much.  You’ve let the world distract you from the true gift of God and His desire for your life that you decided to just let it all slide away.  Our God is the God of second chances.  Like the prodigal son He welcomes us back with open arms and lavishes us with all He has to offer.  I know, because I experienced it myself after years of trying to do it my way.

In addition to baptism by the Holy Spirit, in Mathew, John the Baptist explains that God also baptizes us with fire.  Do you have that fire inside you?  Do you want that fire inside you?  Even if your answer is “no,” I know that deep down, at least once in your life, you have wanted it, but did not know how to obtain it.  This is your chance!  If you had it and you let it burn out, let God reignite the flame.  If you have never had it and have never experienced it, you won’t know the power of that flame until you open yourself up to be ignited.  If you have that fire burning inside you, stoke the flame so it burns brighter still!

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