John the Baptist came preaching and baptizing so that he might reveal who Israel’s Messiah was. Look at John 1:30-34 “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
Of course John recognized Jesus as a cousin, but not as the Son of God. Notice that John is teaching that this Son of God will ‘baptize in the Spirit.’
The topic of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit has often been a confusing one. People have taught in reaction to traditional interpretations and these teachings have also missed the mark. The ‘baptism of the Spirit’ is associated with miraculous power in most teachings. This is not entirely correct or incorrect. The event widely known as the baptism of the Spirit in Acts was associated with miraculous power from the Spirit yet the power wasn’t the purpose of the event in Acts 2 on that Pentecost. We must attempt to discern biblical phrasing when the word Spirit is being used. Not every mention of the Spirit indicates the usage of miraculous power. A panoramic view of Scripture will certainly aid our pursuit for clarification. We are often left with residual concepts because much of the instruction we get from Scripture is not intended to provide us with an attempt to view the Bible in its historical context. In other words, if we want know what’s really going on with a variety of topics (especially the Holy Spirit) then we need to rely on contextual study. The study of the baptism of the Spirit is a topical study but we’ll do our best to illustrate it having attempted a contextual vantage point.
The Holy Spirit is God. He is the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit (I’ll continue referring to Him as the Spirit) has often been characterized as a type of dynamic force, sort of like a comic book superhero would possess. We see this in the acts of Samson. Samson kills 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey after the Spirit enables him to break himself free from two new ropes (Judges 15:16). He tore a lion apart with his bare hands (Judges 14:6) and Scripture, again, credits the mighty power of the Spirit. Samson is just one of many from the Old Testament who were empowered by the Spirit to accomplish things for the purposes of God. Look for an extensive list of examples. God creates our earth through His Spirit. God empowered Joseph to interpret dreams through His Spirit (Gen 41:38). Moses and many of his generation are empowered through God’s Spirit to: escape from Egypt through the Red Sea, build Tabernacle furnishings (Exodus 31:2), and even prophesy (70 elders; Numbers 11:24:25). Even Saul had power from the Spirit (1 Samuel 11:6). David spoke by the Spirit (2 Samuel 23:1-2). Isaiah and the other prophets spoke by the Spirit of God as well. Miraculous power from the Spirit was manifested in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus attributed His power to the Spirit and the apostles were enabled by the Spirit to “heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse lepers, and raise the dead” (Mt 10:8).
So, was Peter’s Pentecost all about the manifestation of power from the Spirit? Was the display of tongues, the sound of rushing wind, the ability for Galileans to speak foreign dialects, all intended to tell us that power from the Spirit was now present in apostolic ministry? As we’ve seen briefly from Old Testament texts God acted powerfully since the foundation of the world. Pentecost with the apostles after Jesus’ resurrection was all about Jesus’ sovereignty and exaltation. Jesus is the One, John said, who’ll baptize in the Holy Spirit.
What did Jesus do? And why?