The first time this phrase is mentioned is in connection to the minnistry of John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).  It is linked with "fire."  Jesus' baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire, which denotes a cleansing process, as well as an empowering process.

The Messiah will inaugurate the new age of the Spirit (cf. Joel 2:28-32). His baptism will be with (or "in" or "by") the Spirit (i.e., Pentecost, cf. Acts 1:5; 2:1-4). There has been much discussion among denominations as to what event in the Christian experience this refers. Some take it to refer to an empowering experience after salvation, a kind of second blessing. Personally I think it refers to becoming a Christian (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13; this is theologically parallel to "born of the Spirit" in John 3:5-6). I do not deny later and repeatable fillings and equippings (cf. Acts 2:4; 4:8,31; Eph. 5:18), but I believe there is only one initial spiritual baptism into Christ in which believers identify with Jesus' death and resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12). This initiating work of the Spirit is delineated in John 16:8-11. In my understanding the works of the Holy Spirit are:

1. convicting of sin

2. revealing the truth about Christ

3. leading to acceptance of the gospel

4. baptizing into Christ

5. convicting the believer of continuing sin

6. forming Christlikeness in the believer


It seems to me that the phrase is used of two things.

1.  the beginning of the Spirit-empowered church (Acts 1:5)

2.  the initial slavation of believers, who are empowered for ministry (1 Cor. 12:13)


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