Written Word

How Does Jesus Baptise with the Holy Spirit? Part 1

John said that Jesus would “baptise with the Holy Spirit.” These words appear six times in the Bible: Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33-34, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16. “Baptise with the Holy Spirit” has been understood in a variety of ways. So let us look carefully at the context in which the words are used because only then can we begin to understand them. For the purpose of our study, we will examine the account found in John’s gospel.

The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world… I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.'” (John 1:29-33)

From this passage we note the following:

  1. John identifies Jesus as God’s atoning Lamb
  2. God the Father identifies Jesus as the Messiah
  3. John identifies Jesus as the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit

We might ask, “When will Jesus baptise with the Holy Spirit?” We can be certain that Jesus did not “baptise with the Holy Spirit” during his three and a half year ministry or during his time with the apostles after his resurrection for our Lord’s departing words to his disciples were: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5) But why the delay? Why this waiting for “a few days”? John tells us why. He says that Jesus must first be glorified. “‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he [Jesus] meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.'”(John 7:37-39) Jesus would not be glorified until he died, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. Only then would he be glorified and only then would he “baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Peter’s words on Pentecost support this.

Day of Pentecost

The disciples did as Jesus had instructed them; they waited in Jerusalem for Jesus to fulfil his words. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Peter says this is the fulfilment of God’s prophesy, as recorded by the prophet Joel. (Joel 2:28-32) God said, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people… on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18) Jesus was referring to the fulfilling of Joel’s prophesy, namely that God would pour out his Spirit on all people, when he said, “you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”

We have noted already that John says in his gospel that the Spirit would not be given until Jesus was glorified. Peter now proclaims that Jesus is glorified and the Holy Spirit has been given. He says, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of this fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear… God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:32-33) The glorified Christ has done what was said of him; he “will baptise with the Holy Spirit.”(John 1:33, Acts 1:4-8)

On the day of Pentecost, Jesus did indeed “baptise with the Holy Spirit”; he gave the Spirit for all God’s people, not just those present on Pentecost but for all future generations of God’s people, “The promise [of the Holy Spirit] is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39) Three thousand responded to Peter’s message that day and were told, “Repent and be baptised everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) The two gifts, the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit, are inseparably linked with the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for he is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and he is the one who “baptises with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:29,33)