Then John gave this testimony:I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.John 1:32-33
If you read through the Old Testament you find in it a deep sense of unsatisfied longings. From the very beginning of the Bible people are longing after righteousness and holiness; longing to be better than they are; longing to be free from the struggle with evil within; wishing somehow they could get hold of the evil, self-centered tendency within themselves, and eliminate it.
Have you ever felt that way? There have been times when I wished I could have had a surgical operation to remove my tendency to be sharp, critical, harsh and caustic; when I saw the hurt I caused I wished somehow to be able to stop doing those kinds of things.
That longing has been in the human heart ever since the fall of man. All through the record of the Bible it increases, as men and women cried out for a way of deliverance, to be free at last from the power and the reign of sin. They longed for beauty of character, for reality of life, and for freedom from evil.
The record of the Scripture is that it takes God himself to do that. The work of the Spirit is to do that very thing. What John is saying is,
I deal with the externals, with what demonstrates men's change of mind as to what they want to be. That is as far as I can go. But, when I baptized Jesus, I saw the Spirit coming down like a dove and lighting on his shoulder. The one who sent me to baptize had said to me,
When you see that happening, that is the one who will not only change men outside, but will change them from the inside, by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When that happened I knew who he was. My own cousin, Jesus of Nazareth, was the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Paul picks this up in his letter to the Corinthians:
For by one Spirit have we all—all believers in Jesus, all, ALL—
been baptized into one body ... and have all been made to drink of one Spirit, (1 Corinthians 12:13). You cannot be a Christian and not be baptized by the Holy Spirit. It is not something you feel, some experience that you can sense happening at the time. It is a change deep within your humanity; a change that God himself does, when he breaks you loose from the family of Adam and places you in the family of God. Jesus said this would happen to all who received him. In the seventh chapter of John's gospel Jesus said,
He who believes in me, ... out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; (John 7:38-39). That is the baptism of the Holy Spirit!
John understood that his ministry was limited, that he could only go so far. He could express in some dramatic, symbolic fashion the desire for change of a heart that wanted to be right. But he could not change it. That had to be the work of Jesus. From that time on, Jesus has been the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. When we enter the family of God, he is the One who does it. Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfiller of the promises; he is the Lamb of God, the fulfiller of the sacrifices of all the Old Testament records; he is the accomplisher and satisfier of the longings of men for purity and freedom, the baptizer with the Holy Spirit.
Lord, I thank you for the truth of this great promise. Here I am, over 2,000 years later, and yet the glory of it and the truth of it is as real to my heart as though I too had stood beside the Jordan River on that day. I recognize there is standing with me today the Lord Jesus himself, the One who can fulfill my longings, take away my sins, satisfy my heart, be King of my life.
Baptism by the Holy Spirit occurs when we choose by faith to enter into the saving Life of Jesus. Are we depending upon His power to transform us into the image of Christ?