Baptism of the Holy Spirit
by Pastor Scott
Do you remember the date of your baptism?
For most of us who were baptized as infant, it is not a date you recall. It is not like your birthday, which everyone knows immediately. It was not all that long ago that I looked up my baptism date and found out that I was baptized on September 29, 1963. Like most of you, even though I am getting older, I still celebrate my birthday. But now I also celebrate my baptismal date.
In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther explains that the Holy Spirit allows an individual to undergo a daily baptism. The first baptism is of water and the Word but there is also a daily process of dying to sin and being raised in Christ; a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s kind of like the day of confirmation we celebrate by making a public declaration to our faith Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, that should not be once and done. We should celebrate our salvation and being a new creation every day!
The Greek word for baptism is “baptizo” which means to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water; to wash one’s self or bathe. This points to the traditional act of baptism, but also points to a baptism of the Holy Spirit, an “immersion” in the Spirit.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was predicted by John the Baptist in Luke 3:16: “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
This baptism of the Holy Spirit was only possible because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, thus cleansing the believer of sin. At times in the Old Testament, certain individuals were empowered by the Holy Spirit for short periods of time for specific acts. But once Jesus ascended to heaven, as He promised in Acts 1:5, He sent the Advocate (the Helper, the Holy Spirit) to live with and guide us, the believers. And when you truly believe, the power of the Holy Spirit will wash over you.
Some of you can describe this experience; feeling a quickening in your soul or a sensation that you truly have been born again. Others don’t have that instant radical change, but rather a sense that they need to get closer to God and grow in their faith. Either way, as you learn to become more in tune with what many call “the still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit, He will lead you deeper in faith and align your will with that of the Father.
It’s too bad that so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are baptized and then confirmed walk away from the church only to be seen on occasions such as Christmas and Easter. It’s at times like these that I wonder what I as a Pastor can do differently. How have I failed to encourage people to be more serious about their faith? After all, we have this incredible victory in Christ. Why aren’t we living that out?
Martin Luther knew that even though someone was baptized and confirmed, it didn’t necessarily mean that there was true faith in their heart. But when we humbly admit our lack of faith to God, He will answer.
The Apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” With His Spirit within us, we uniquely commune with Him, even in ways we might not be able to without the Holy Spirit’s help (Romans 8:26-27).
In baptism and in faith, the Holy Spirit draws all of us together. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Holy Spirit makes us one family and connects us to God.
I hope and pray that during this New Year, we can all open our hearts and minds to the faith we have been given, not taking this priceless gift for granted, but believing that through the Holy Spirit we can reach out to those who have fallen away from the church and God’s mission and to those who have never heard the Good News.
Let us all be the body of Christ.
In Jesus’ Name,
January 10, 2024
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