The Baptism of the Spirit
[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.