Our relationship to sin: Conviction / Repentance / Regeneration / Forgiveness / Redemption / Justification
Our relationship to God:
Before conversion: Election / Drawing / Faith
At conversion: Reconciliation / Positional sanctification / Adoption / Union with Christ
With our conversion, our relationship with all three members of the Godhead is transformed. In adoption, we have a specific relationship with the Father; in union, we have a specific relationship with the Son. And among this pile of gifts there are several that have to do with our specific relationship with the Spirit.
The first of these (and yes, they’re all simultaneous in our experience) is Spirit baptism, by which we are joined with the body of Christ, the church (1Co 12.13).
There’s not a lot of material in the Scripture on this event, and we need to be careful not to ascribe things to it that the Scripture doesn’t (::cough:: like the Wikipedia article ::cough::). It’s predicted a couple of times (once by John the Baptist [Mt 3.11; Mk 1.8; Lk 3.16; Jn 1.33], and once by Jesus, just before the Ascension [Ac 1.5, recalled by Peter in Ac 11.16]). Then there’s the 1 Corinthians verse noted above, and that’s it. In that passage Paul seems to compare it to “being made to drink into one Spirit,” which is an interesting expression, but still doesn’t tell us much.
I conclude, then, that Spirit baptism includes a couple of benefits for us—
- We’re united with Christ’s body, the church. And that makes sense in the light of our union with Christ.
- We’re united in some way with the Spirit; we’re “drinking him in.” That seems to imply spiritual power for following and serving Christ.
There are a couple of questions that come up with this event. The first is the terminology itself, which varies among Christians. You’ll see “baptism in the Spirit,” “baptism with the Spirit,” “baptism by the Spirit,” “baptism of the Spirit,” and just “Spirit baptism.” The difference comes from the fact that Greek prepositions, like English ones, can mean a lot of different things. Think about the following statements:
- I eat ice cream with a spoon.
- I eat ice cream with hot fudge sauce.
- I eat ice cream with my wife.
- I eat ice cream with great joy.
Wait—come back! Get away from that freezer!
I apologize for the distraction.
Each of the listed statements means something very different from the others, but the little word with is doing all the work.
In Greek it’s the same way. We are baptized “en” the Spirit. And that word can speak of agency—“by”—or of instrumentality—“with”—or of sphere—“in.” If you’re baptized “in” the Spirit, then the Spirit is the water in which you’re being immersed (yes, my baptistic bias is showing here, but it doesn’t make much sense to use “in” of pouring or sprinkling). If you’re baptized “by” the Spirit, then the Spirit is the pastor, and he’s putting you in the water.
So which is correct?
I dunno. Most English versions, from the KJV to the NIV, say “by.” I prefer “Spirit baptism,” which admittedly isn’t a literal rendering of the Greek but avoids the ambiguity altogether.
The second question is between some Pentecostals / Charismatics and mainstream Protestants. It’s typical of the former to use the term of a “Pentecostal experience”—“I got the baptism of the Spirit, and I spoke in tongues!” Setting aside for a moment the issue of the genuineness of the experience, the term itself doesn’t match the biblical use; it appears to me that Pentecostalists are confusing Spirit baptism with “filling,” which is a different phenomenon, and which we’ll get to several posts down the road. If Spirit baptism is the event by which we’re placed into the body of Christ (1Co 12.13), and if all believers are members of the body (same verse; note “all”), then by definition every believer has received the baptism, whether he realizes it or not. It’s not a later experience after conversion; it’s simultaneous with it.
So you’re one with the body of Christ, the church. That has all sorts of ramifications. Plunge in.