The Baptism of the Spirit

The Baptism of the Spirit
F.F. Bruce


[p.247] (For some years we have maintained a principle only to print articles that are original to  ‘The  Witness’.  In  this  instance,  we  are  departing  from  that  principle  because  of  the  current nature and importance of the subject discussed by Professor Bruce; and gladly acknowledge the courtesy of `Calling’, published in Vancouver, B.C., for the use of this paper.)


The  baptism  of  the  Spirit  is  not  referred  to frequently in so many words in the New Testament. It may be that sometimes, where the context so indicates, it is referred to in terms of  baptism  alone,  without  express  mention  of  the  Spirit;  it  may  be,  also,  that  the  same  experience  is  sometimes  referred  to  where  other  words—such  as  outpouring,  anointing  or  sealing—are used in connection with the Spirit. But, although some passages in the two latter categories will be touched upon in this study, it is from those passages which speak explicitly of the baptism of (or ‘with’, or ‘in’) the Spirit that we must take our bearings.


1.  John’s  prophecy.  While  the  baptism  of  the  Spirit  may  well  have  been  foretold  in  Old  Testament  times,  its  first  explicit  mention  comes  in  the  proclamation  of  John  the  Baptist:  ‘I  baptised you in water; but he (the One who was to come after John) shall baptise you in the Holy Spirit’ (Mark 1. 8, ARV; cf. parallels in Matt. 3. 11; Luke 3. 16). At the beginning of his ministry, John did not know the identity of this Coming One, but he had been given a sign by which  he  would  recognize  Him  when  He  appeared:  ‘Upon  whomsoever  thou  shalt  see  the  Spirit  descending,  and  abiding  upon  Him,  the  same  is  He  that  baptizeth  in  the  Holy  Spirit’  (John 1. 33). The day came when John did see the descent of the Spirit; ‘and I have seen,’ he said, ‘and have borne witness that this is the Son of God’ (John 1. 34).


2. John’s prophecy reaffirmed. It was when Jesus from Nazareth came up out of the water, after  being  baptized  by  John,  that  the  Spirit  descended  upon  Him  as  a  dove  from  the  rent  heavens, and the voice of God acclaimed Him as His Servant-Son. The descent of the Spirit marked  Him  out  as  the  Messiah  of  David’s  line  (Isa.  11.  2)  and  the  obedient  Servant  of  the  Lord (Isa. 42. 1; 61. 1), anointed by that same Spirit to bring the glad tidings of liberation (cf. Luke  4.  18). 

This  is  the  occasion  referred  to  by  our  Lord  when  He  said  of  the  Son  of  Man,  ‘Him  the  Father,  even  God,  hath  sealed’  (John  6.  27),  and  by  Peter  when  he  told  Cornelius and his household about ‘Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power’ (Acts 10. 38).

Jesus is not actually said to have been baptized with the Spirit, but it was just when He had been baptized in water that the Spirit came upon Him, endowing Him for His messianic ministry, which included the baptizing  of  others  with  the  Holy  Spirit.  The  fact that it was at His water-baptism that He received the Spirit may help to explain why the baptism  of  the  Spirit,  when  it  was  imparted,  did  not  supersede  water-baptism,  as  John  the  Baptist’s language might have led one to expect.


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