“I would not have known Him, except that the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.””
There is a question which I have been turning over in my mind for the last little while. It concerns the greatest need which the Church, and presumably each of us individually, has. There are always conflicting voices which urge all manner of actions upon us. I constantly find myself pushed and pulled in almost every direction as a Pastor regarding programs and priorities for the ministry of the congregation I serve. What are we to do? Robert Murray McCheyne was once asked about the greatest need of his congregation. His answer was to state that “the greatest need of my Church is a holy Pastor.” Holiness is the greatest need of each and every congregation and Christian. The question is however how do we get there? The immediate response is to think that we must make a supreme effort to make ourselves holy so that we can be blessed of God. We then become discouraged when our holiness does not measure up to God’s standard. The question remains then, “what are we to do?”
This is where the message of the Gospels becomes immensely tangible and helpful. We are called to come to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith in order to receive from Him that which we need. This is not a calling to a once and finished blessing. It is a calling to a continuous relationship with our Lord in faith. God’s blessing comes through what the Bible calls the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Does this come when we first believe, at what the Bible calls regeneration? The answer is yes. Does it come later on when we exercise faith? Again the answer is yes. The Bible speaks about a continual experience of receiving the Spirit and His blessing by faith. We can only receive this blessing when we come to the Crucified One in constantly abiding faith, drinking of His Spirit.
What do I mean by this? Perhaps an extended illustration from Darrell Johnson’s book Who Is Jesus? will help us here. Johnson is dealing with the point that the Lord Jesus Christ baptizes us in and with the Holy Spirit. In looking at all of the options regarding when and how this blessing is received Johnson then writes this.
“As I have wrestled with this, I have come to the conclusion that each of the options is wrong, and each of the options is right. And each of the options is wrong and right for the same reason.
You see, each option works from the same assumption, the assumption that Jesus baptizes us only once. We make that assumption because we are ordinarily baptized in and with water only once. But that is not how John the Baptizer sees it. Listen carefully to the way he puts it. “[The One] who sent me to baptize in [and with] water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in [and with] the Holy Spirit.’” (John 1:33 [emphasis added])
Baptizes. Present tense. This is crucial to note. In New Testament Greek the tenses of verbs point to the time of action. But more importantly, they point to the kind of action. In Greek, the present tense emphasizes continuous action, and is best rendered “keep on.” “Abide in me and I in you,” literally means “Keep on abiding in Me and I in you.” “All who come to Me and believe in Me will never hunger or thirst,” literally means “All who keep on coming to Me and keep on believing in Me will never hunger or thirst.” John the Baptizer is saying of Jesus the Baptizer, “This is the One who keeps on baptizing.” Continuous action. Keeps on Baptizing.
That is, John is saying something about the nature and character of Jesus. John is saying that it is the nature of Jesus, the Saviour of the world, to baptize and keep on baptizing, to immerse and keep on immersing, to soak and keep on soaking, to flood and keep on flooding, to fill and to keep on filling, to infuse and to keep on infusing. This is the One who baptizes not once, not twice, not three times, but again and again and again. Jesus keep on infusing His followers with Divine life and will keep on doing so until every fibre of our being radiates with the Glory of God! How is that for good news?”
This is why we are called to come to Him the Crucified One, in faith. Such faith meets Him at the cross each moment and is lifted up in the power of the resurrection. That is why we must be a holy people, filled with the life of Christ. That is why we are called to Spirit filled praying. The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ among us and in us is our only hope. I for one praise God that this is so.