The Ministries of God the Holy Spirit Today
Ephesians Lesson #115
August 1, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are thankful that we have You to come to, we’re thankful that God the Holy Spirit along with You and the Son indwell us. And that God the Holy Spirit is the One Who illuminates our thinking, helps us to see and understand what Your Word has communicated to us, and then He is the One who uses that, brings it to our memory for application.
“Father, we’re thankful that God the Holy Spirit, Who revealed these things through the writers of Scripture to us, is the same One who helps us understand it. Father, it takes time and sometimes we get bored with it, but the process of spiritual growth is a lifetime process, always pursuing perfection, and hoping that somehow along the way we achieve excellence.
“But all of that is just due to You. And we pray that we might persevere in our reading, our study of Scripture, our application of it that You might in some ways use us to bring glory to Yourself. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Ephesians 4; we will review a bit. As we have gone through Ephesians in the last couple of years, there have been two previous sections that have dealt with the ministry of God the Holy Spirit. In the first chapter, we recognize that the emphasis in Ephesians 1:13–14 was on the Holy Spirit’s ministry of sealing us.
His sealing ministry is where He marks us as being owned by God. We are His possession, and as such we cannot escape that. We cannot lose our salvation. We are saved, not because of anything we did, but because of who Christ is. And because of Who He is He keeps us until the day of redemption.
Anyone who thinks that they can do something to lose their salvation or to cause that mark of ownership to be eradicated is assuming a couple of false things:
- First, they’re assuming that they can commit a sin that is too great for the grace of God, a sin that somehow Christ could not pay for.
- Second, they are assuming that God forgot to pay for a specific sin, and that they have committed that sin.
There are sins that have greater consequences on our souls and sins that have greater consequences in our lives than other sins, but all sin is sin. All sin is essentially any thought, word, or act that violates the character and the righteousness of God. And as such He has to bring judgment on that sin.
But on the cross, Christ bore our punishment, Scripture says, in His own body. There was no sin that was forgotten, there was no sin that was too great for the grace of God. And because Christ paid for all sin that is no longer an issue.
Colossians 2:12–14 tells us that that certificate of debt was nailed to the Cross. That did not happen when we trusted Christ; that happened at the Cross in AD 33. It was nailed to the Cross, so that in that we have forgiveness. That is a judicial forgiveness that eradicates that indictment against us. It doesn’t save us, though.
In order to be saved, we still have to be transformed from spiritual death into spiritual life, and we have to receive the righteousness of Christ. That comes when we accept the gospel, when we trust in Christ as our Savior, when we believe He died as our substitute, and only that is the basis for our transformation.
We are regenerated and we receive the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness, two things that we will mention briefly today. And we receive that sealing of God the Holy Spirit, as a guarantee of our inheritance. That’s Ephesians 1.
In the second half of Ephesians 2, we learn that it is also through God the Holy Spirit that we have access to the Father. As a child of God who has trusted in Christ as Savior, we are adopted into God’s royal family; we are put into the body of Christ.
That is the whole issue we spent so much time on approximately a year ago, going through the teaching in Ephesians 2:14–22, where we are told that when we trust Christ as Savior, all those in this Church Age, because Christ made peace between Jew and Gentile and made peace between Jew and Gentile and God, that now those who trust in Him have peace and access by one Spirit to the Father.
As we get into the next few verses the focus again is on God the Holy Spirit and His ministry to us. This morning as I was preparing, and because I continue to think consistently I thought, “Well, we probably need to review the ministries of God the Holy Spirit.” So I searched on the website to find out when I had taught this before, and I was surprised it was just about a year ago.
Some of you weren’t even here then, some of you were only watching via livestream, some of you did neither, and some of you have just forgotten what that meant because you haven’t studied this 20 or 30 times like others of you have.
Some of you need a reminder. I am reshaping a few things and bringing in a few new ideas. Others of you need to hear this about 15 or 20 more times to begin to comprehend the value of God the Holy Spirit in our life as believers.
There’s probably no doctrine that was more perverted, distorted, and corrupted in the 20th century than the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Tuesday night after next week in our study of Judges, we will be talking about Othniel, the first judge.
The Holy Spirit “came upon him …” meaning that we have to study the role of God the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament … a preview of coming attractions. We’ll get into more about the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5 as we learn about being filled by the Spirit.
I am amazed that I still run into people who I think ought to know better because I know that some of them were taught better because they set under my ministry and they’re still real fuzzy and confused on some of these ideas. Which is understandable because we’ve often heard some of these things taught with less than precise vocabulary.
I have been as guilty in the past as others in some ways. It is built on the fact that we have poor translations that have brought us certain phrases that aren’t really accurate. When we think with inaccurate vocabulary it causes our concepts and our thinking to be somewhat fuzzy, so we are going to be reviewing several things.
Last time we looked at Ephesians 4:3, which should be translated “to be diligent …” being diligent to keep, working to keep, putting forth every effort to keep, SPOUDAZO. “To keep” is not the idea of creating the unity, but to maintain the unity. The unity that we have in Christ is a foundational unity that was created by God the Holy Spirit.
It is at the very core of what it means to be in the body of Christ, the Church. We are created as new creatures in Christ, and at that instant there is a unity. What destroys unity is arrogance. We don’t have to create the unity, we have to maintain the unity, and we have to maintain the unity without compromising the truth of the Scriptures.
That is why Ephesians 4:4 emphasizes one body. It’s foundational to understand what this section is built on. In Ephesians 4:5, where the focus is on the Lord, there is the emphasis on one faith.
If you look at Christianity around the world and you think of one faith, at an initial glance, it looks like, “Well, they’re a long way from that, aren’t they.” Some people have estimated 100,000 different denominations around the world. But that can be broken down; it’s not quite that bad.
A lot of it is because of national or state churches, state denominations, things of that nature. In other places there are significant doctrinal errors and departures, which is why one group has split from another group. Some of them are significant, and it is necessary to divide from those who hold false doctrine. But in other cases, it is simply a matter of arrogance.
In the United States there is an estimate of some 33,000 different denominations. In fact, if you go back to the early part of and through the 17th century, there weren’t that many denominations in the United States or even in Western civilization. Up until the 11th century, it was basically Catholic Christianity. It had become Roman Catholic by then, but that was it, just one denomination. There were a few groups, and there were a lot of differences in that Catholic Church.
With the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, beginning with Luther in 1517, this tended to develop state churches, because aside from the Anabaptist everybody else believed in the state church. So they had a close connection between the state government and Christianity. Germany was Lutheran, Sweden was Lutheran, Denmark was Lutheran. France was still basically Catholic.
With the beginnings of the Reformation was the development of French Protestants who were called Huguenots, but the state church for France continued to be Roman Catholic. In Austria it was Roman Catholic. In Czechoslovakia there was a strong shift toward Protestantism; they were the descendants of Jan Hus. In England the Anglican Church was developing.
These were state churches, and some people from each of those different groups came over to what became the United States, so you now had Swedish Lutherans, German Lutherans, Danish Lutherans; also various other state Lutherans, who all maintained their denominations.
Over here, you just didn’t have Lutherans, you now had about six or seven denominations because of where they came from. The same thing is true with Presbyterians, Calvinists and others. Then they started splitting in the 19th century due to liberalism.
What is meant by one faith? What the Scriptures mean by one faith is the Bible teaches one consistent view of God, of man, of the cross and salvation; anything that departs from that is off. There is one faith, and we don’t compromise it.
It’s in the Scriptures, so we have to take a stand, because without that one faith, the unity that some Christians think they have is a meaningless unity. Because if you can believe anything you want to and have unity, then there’s nothing distinctive whatsoever, and it is no longer truly Christianity.
We are to be diligent to maintain the unity of the Spirit, and that means we have to teach the Word of God, so people understand what the Word of God says because that is the one faith. There’s an interconnection between each of these things that are listed here. The body of Christ, one Spirit, because He’s the One who revealed the Word through the apostles and prophets.
He is the One who indwells each and every one of us, and He is the one who is forming the body of Christ, so there’s one Spirit. He relates to one body, He relates to the hope of our calling, He relates to our faith because He’s the One Who revealed it, and He relates to baptism.
All of these singularities mentioned in Ephesians 4:4–6 are interconnected, and it seems to me that a major part of it has to do with the role of God the Holy Spirit.
I went to several passages last time; the idea of unity in Ephesians 4:3 is restated by Paul in many places, but it cannot survive on arrogance. When there is arrogance there is always the focus on “me first”—“what I think Scripture says” versus “what you think Scripture says,”—instead of both of us humbling ourselves to study the Scriptures to come to an understanding of what God revealed, not what we want Him to reveal. This emphasis then becomes the basis for application.
Philippians 1:27, “Only let your conduct—that’s application—be worthy of the gospel of Christ—what he means by walking worthy—be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs that you stand fast in one spirit—unity based on the Word of God, based on the one singular faith that is revealed in the Scriptures—stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith—the doctrinal content—of the gospel.”
Faith can speak of the act of believing, but it also is used for the content of what we believe. The content of what we believe is what’s meant by the phrase “one faith” or the phrase here “the faith of the gospel,” the faith that is related to the gospel.
Philippians 2:2, “… fulfill my joy by being like-minded—unity—having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
We will study Philippians when I finish 2 Peter in 4 to 8 weeks … just a view of coming attractions.
Philippians 3:16–17, “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. This isn’t a counterfeit unity for the sake of unity, this is a unity based upon a conviction of the truth of God’s Word. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”
Ephesians 4:4, “There is one body …” the body of Christ. Not the body of believers that meet at West Houston Bible Church, or another body of believers that meet in Sugar Land, or a body of believers that meet in Tomball, and others in Houston or wherever. There is one body; we are just one manifestation of that body of Christ.
Most who are members of the body of Christ are already in Heaven. Others are alive today, and God is adding to the body every day with new believers. There’s one body and one Spirit, and it is God the Holy Spirit who has an integral and intimate role in forming that body.
We see that in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
The foundational unity is this act that takes place at the instant of salvation. It’s not an experiential act; we don’t feel anything. It is a legal act that God the Father performs. Jesus Christ is the One who performs the action of the baptism because He is the head of the body, He’s the authority of the body, and He uses God the Holy Spirit in order to affect that union.
What I’ve just said is about as precise as I think it can get. There are very few who understand it, but we’re working through that this morning.
We have studied that the Bible talks about our relationship to God in terms of two aspects. One is the eternal realities or legal realities. They are based upon things that God does in terms of conformity to His law. They are positional, they’re legal.
They are not experiential, and they don’t change once we’re saved. Temporal realities have to do with our day-to-day spiritual life. Some days we’re walking with the Lord, some days we’re not.
When we trust Christ as Savior we are identified with Him, Paul says in Romans 6, through what we call the baptism by the Holy Spirit, which is where I’m headed this morning. The phrase is correctly stated there, but is so often misstated or wrongly stated or the Scripture wrongly translated.
Then our temporal walk where when we are walking in the light, we are being filled by the Holy Spirit, we’re abiding by the Spirit. We call this “fellowship” or “walking by the Spirit.”
In relation to this passage, we need to talk a little bit about and be reminded of the ministries of God the Holy Spirit today.
This morning we will talk about the first two, which relate to the role of God the Holy Spirit to unbelievers. God the Holy Spirit is constantly working in the world toward unbelievers to bring them to an understanding of the gospel and to salvation. He is also working to restrain evil.
Some of you look around and say, “Well, I don’t know that He’s doing a great job right now the way things are going.” Well, let’s take some of the darkest places on the earth, and it would be a thousand times worse than that if God the Holy Spirit weren’t restraining evil. That will be evident when we get to the period of Daniel’s 70th week or the Tribulation that comes after the Rapture.
We will look at the first two, the restraining ministry of God the Holy Spirit and the convicting ministry of God the Holy Spirit directed to unbelievers. Then we will look at the first two things that He does in relation to believers in the Church Age, regeneration and the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
You can go back to about lessons 77–84 in the Ephesians series and get more detail. Since I’ve gone through this a lot, I just want to summarize these fairly rapidly and spend most of the time talking about the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:5–8, Paul gives us some insights about the coming of the Day of the Lord. (Perk up your ears if you’ve been following on 2 Peter 3; we will return to this passage.) The Day of the Lord is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, where Paul says that the day of the Lord does not come until the Antichrist, the first beast of Revelation is revealed. Then the Day of the Lord begins.
He told the Thessalonians, “so don’t worry about it.” 2 Thessalonians 2:5, “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” Paul was only there a short time, maybe two months. He taught them a lot, and part of what he taught them that was important was God’s plan for the ages: Dispensations, eschatology, what the plan was.
2 Thessalonians 2:6–7, “And now you know—because of what I taught before—what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. ‘What is restraining’ is a reference to God the Holy Spirit. “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”
The restraining ministry of God the Holy Spirit isn’t to prevent evil from being developed and expanded throughout the world system, but to keep it from being as bad as it could be.
“He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.” When does that happen? That happens at the Rapture, because right now God the Holy Spirit is indwelling every Church member and indwelling the Church as a whole, and that is one of the ways in which He restrains evil.
When He is taken out of the way at the Rapture, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, “And then the lawless one will be revealed.” That’s Paul’s term here for the one called Antichrist.
There are other terms for him, “The prince who is to come,” Daniel called him “the little horn” who takes over the revived Roman Empire, “The lawless one …” There are various other terms for him. “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”
2 Thessalonians 2:6–7 uses “restrain,” KATECHO in the Greek, meaning to prevent the doing of something or cause it to be ineffective.
The evil is Satan’s attempt to establish his rule and reign on the planet through the Antichrist, so that is ultimately what is being restrained. Just a warning: through every generation, there is someone who appears to be a great candidate to be the Antichrist.
Throughout the last centuries going back into the early Middle Ages, there’s always people saying this is the Antichrist: the Pope, it’s this person, it’s Ronald Wilson Reagan because each one of his names had six letters that 666, so that was him. There are all kinds of things that people come up with. The reality is he is not revealed until after the Rapture, but there is always somebody that’s ready.
Why? Satan has no more of an idea when the Rapture is going to occur than you do or I do, so he has to always have somebody waiting in the wings to get out on stage when the curtain opens. He’s just waiting for that curtain to be opened so he can push his man out into the center.
Restraining is a work of God’s common grace. God the Holy Spirit restrains evil and lawlessness during the Church Age in order to provide stable environments for evangelism, spiritual growth, and missions.
The Holy Spirit restrains through government, through the presence of the church, through thwarting Satan and his designs, through individual conscience, and providential prevention of the evil plans of human beings.
There are conspiracies today that you have no idea about, and neither do I. They’re never going to come to fruition. You will read all kinds of them on the Internet, but they will never get any traction unless God the Holy Spirit stops restraining.
I don’t understand people who get caught up with all these conspiracies. It just wastes a lot of time, gets your energy and focus off into something else. Satan always has 1,001 conspiracies in operation.
Because he’s hoping that at any moment God will bring the Rapture, and he’s going to need those organizations and people in place to put his man forward. So why do we waste time looking at that? It’s not going to get anywhere until God gives the go.
That’s the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The second ministry toward the unbelieving world is convicting.
Jesus talks about this in John 16:7–11. This is really important because this tells us what God the Holy Spirit is doing behind the scenes when you’re trying to witness to somebody. God the Holy Spirit is trying to focus on doing three things, and most people haven’t a clue.
When they’re giving the gospel, they’re giving all kinds of irrelevant and wrong information. We’re not giving the Holy Spirit the tools He needs to use to convict somebody of the need for the gospel.
Jesus said, John 16:7, talking to His disciples on the way to Gethsemane, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper—God the Holy Spirit: the PARAKLETE, the Helper, the Comforter, the Encourager are various ways in which that is translated—the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” That tells us that God the Son is involved in sending the Holy Spirit.
John 16:8, “And when He comes … He’s going to do three things:
1. “He will convict the world of sin,” What does that mean? Christ will tell us.
2. “of righteousness,”
3. “and of judgment.”
That seems pretty vague, but He gets more precise.
John 16:9–11, “of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of the world is judged.”
What He means by “convict” is pretty simple. ELENCHO means to bring something to light, to expose it, to set something forth, to convict or convince someone. In some passages it even has the idea of punishing or some sort of discipline.
It’s really the idea of proving something, giving forth the evidence that something is true. It has a legal background relating to declaring the guilt of someone who has committed a criminal offense. It has the idea of persuasion, of exposing the truth. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
That doesn’t mean we just pull out our Bible and shoot our gospel gun at people and quote Acts 16, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” They don’t know who Jesus is, they don’t know what salvation is, and they don’t have a clue what “believe” means.
They don’t know Who God is and why they need to be saved. All that had already been evident within the framework of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. So by the time he said that to the Ephesian jailer who asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul didn’t have to go into all of that; that foundation had already been established.
We need to be able to explain, help people understand, Who God is: that there is only one God and He’s not part of His creation; that He is perfectly righteous, and that’s the standard for relationship with Him.
That human beings are sinners—we violated the righteousness of God, so we are under condemnation. But God in His grace and out of His love sent His Son to become a human being to die on the cross for us and to pay the penalty for sin, so that all that is left for us to do is to trust in Him.
We give those tools, God the Holy Spirit is the One Who uses that information to convict the unbeliever, to expose his need for salvation and to demonstrate the veracity of our claims. That doesn’t mean that we don’t get involved in explanations related to apologetics.
We are to give an answer, Peter says, for the hope that is within us to anyone who asks. So we need to be able to explain why we believe what we believe and why it is true, and God the Holy Spirit uses that.
1. He convicts the world of sin, the main thing.
This isn’t to convict the individual that he is a terrible sinner and he has committed so many horrible things in his life, but to demonstrate what sin is. Sin is any act, word, thought, or statement that violates the righteousness of God, and that we’re all sinners. We all come under condemnation because of that, and God the Holy Spirit is going to use that.
John 16:8, Jesus says He is convicting the world of sin. Because we have to know why and how we were saved, and that means bringing sin into the picture. But it’s not to expose all the sins that a person has to repent for. Never are we told to repent of our sin in order to be saved.
In fact, John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already.”
They’re spiritually dead and they’re under condemnation for eternal punishment. All they have to do is believe. “He who does not believe …” It doesn’t say “he who has sinned” because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The issue is belief at this point.
“… he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
“Sin” here is not plural, it’s not his sins, but sin—that is the sin of Adam that condemned all of us. Christ died for sins, plural. That covered Adam’s original sin and all of our sins.
2. John 16:8, “… of righteousness,” because we aren’t righteous. That’s the standard, but we are all unrighteous. There is no one righteous, not even one. The Scripture says that all of us are sinners, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That is the standard.
The standard is God’s essence. The phrase “glory of God” is a figure of speech that incorporates all of God’s attributes, and nobody measures up. The standard is if your righteousness can be stacked up from here to the moon, then you can get into heaven.
But the most righteous person in history can only get his righteousness stacked up to about 3 centimeters. None of us come close to measuring up, so somebody else has to do it.
The standard is God’s righteousness and His justice,
At the Cross, God imputed our sin to Christ.
Isaiah 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds—not our unrighteous deeds—are like filthy rags—which actually if my analogy were correct, nobody has anything to stack up.”
2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him to who knew no sin—Christ—to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Slides 26 and 27
Our sin is imputed to Christ, so that when we trust in Him, His righteousness then is imputed to us; we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. What’s under the robes is still that old sin nature, and it still our gnarly, nasty unrighteous self, the old man.
But we are clothed in righteousness, and God only looks at us in terms of what our robes of righteousness says. He doesn’t look at us anymore as that spiritually dead sinner; He declares us to be righteous.
That’s the basis for our salvation so that because of Christ’s righteousness, we can be blessed.
4. Judgment, and that judgment is related to Satan. Satan is judged at the Cross.
That certificate of debt was nailed to the Cross. Colossians 2:15, “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities—that’s language related to the fallen angels and Satan—He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”
The first thing that happens when we are saved is we are made alive again.
We are born spiritually dead, Ephesians 2:1.
It is separation from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18. Nobody is born alive. We are born spiritually dead, but physically alive. We are alienated from the life of God.
We must be born again, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “… unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
How do we do that? We receive Him as Savior.
John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe …” and are good … it doesn’t say that. Those who believe and go to church. It doesn’t say that. It only says “believe.” Over 95 times in the Gospel of John, it is only “believe” that is mentioned,
Then we’re born. It’s not born because of blood because of whatever genetic lineage we come from, it’s not born of the will of the flesh, the flesh is a negative term. It’s not because we willed ourselves to be so good. It’s not born of the will of man, but of God. We believe God regenerates us.
Titus 3:5, it’s “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration, even the renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
This is the issue. It’s God’s mercy, and He makes us alive again. That’s what regeneration means, and it’s done through the work of God the Holy Spirit who regenerates and renews us.
1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ through the dead.”
Mercy is the expression of God’s grace.
The next thing that happens is the baptism by the Holy Spirit. It is never said to be the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but that has so entered into the patois of evangelicalism that you hear it. I’ve heard three people who ought to know better, including myself, use this in the last week.
There is no place in the Scripture where the word “baptism” is related to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit in the genitive case. That’s the only way you can use it as of the Spirit. In the original, there’s no such thing as the baptism of the Spirit, but prepositions are fluid things from language to language, and that’s why there is so much confusion.
We are baptized by means of the Spirit, Matthew 3:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:13.
1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body …” Ephesians 4:4 says that there is one Spirit and there’s one body, the same thing that Paul mentions here, “… we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
“Baptism” is an interesting word because it is much abused and often not communicated clearly. It isn’t translated “baptism,” it is transliterated “baptism.” That means they didn’t have the guts to translate it when they were translating the Bible because it was such a divisive issue. They just Anglicized the Greek BAPTIZO, so it wouldn’t commit them to one position or another.
What lies behind that is that in most of the countries that were going through the Reformation, they still had a unity of church and state. The way you entered into citizenship in France or Germany or Spain or Italy was the same way you entered into the church. When you were an infant you were sprinkled, and that act of baptism made you a citizen of Heaven and a citizen of the Earth.
If you said that wasn’t valid, you’re making a political statement as well and saying that person really isn’t a member of the state. Now you have committed treason. That’s why it was a death penalty for the Anabaptists. What made a Baptist a Baptist is that you believe in separation of church and state, and you believe that baptism is only for believers who had trusted Christ as Savior.
BAPTIZO though is really interesting. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this lately. I have said this and it’s probably not true—that BAPTIZO comes from BAPTO. But it doesn’t have the same meaning as BAPTO. BAPTO, strictly speaking, means to dip, plunge, or immerse. But I will show you why BAPTIZO in its core meaning does not bring that over.
That shakes Baptists up, but you just have to stay with me as we understand this.
If it always means to be immersed in liquid, you’ve got a real problem. That problem is that there are eight different kinds of baptisms in the New Testament, and only three of them are wet. There are five that are dry; there’s no immersion in a liquid. I will give you a quote as we summarize this.
The wet baptisms are:
1. John the Baptist’s baptism down at the Jordan.
2. The baptism of Jesus is distinct. John’s baptism was for repentance; Jesus had nothing to repent of. His baptism inaugurated His earthly ministry.
3. Believers’ baptism, when we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The reason I’m making this statement that there’s a difference between BAPTO and BAPTIZO … The clearest example is from a Greek writer’s recipe for making pickles. His name was Nicander, 200 BC.
“First the vegetable should be dipped into boiling water.” He uses BAPTO, which means dip, plunge, or immerse.
Secondly, he says, “then you BAPTIZO the vegetable in a vinegar solution.” The importance of that is that’s what changes the vegetable from a cucumber to a pickle.
The core issue when they coined this development of the word BAPTIZO, ultimately, it’s etymologically based on BAPTO, but its significance becomes something that is transformed or changed, not necessarily involving immersion, but something that is transformed or changed by that act of baptism.
Slides 45 and 46
1. Baptism into Moses. The Israelites coming through the Dead Sea are baptized by means of the cloud and the water. They don’t get wet, they’re not immersed in the water, and they’re not immersed in the fire or the cloud. There’s no immersion at all. There is just identification.
2. Baptism into Noah: the only thing they went into was the ark. They didn’t get immersed in anything. Those who got immersed in the water died.
3. Baptism of the Cross. There’s no water involved anywhere. Christ is identified with our sins on the Cross. The basic idea is identification, and there’s a legal change, “He who knew no sin was made sin for us.” He is not made a sinner, but He receives the legal imputation or judgment for our sin.
4. Baptism by the Holy Spirit. It is not immersion into Christ. It’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
We think of immersion as immersion into liquid. I’ve been reading a very lengthy study of baptism. I don’t think he is right on everything. I’m not going into all the detail. I don’t have time to read 1,800 pages on taking apart every use of BAPTIZO and BAPTO and BAPTISMOS and BAPTISMA from the ancient Greeks all the way through the first four centuries of the Church.
Five volumes in fine print written by a 19th-century writer, where he goes on and on and on. Has lots of detail, but I don’t have that kind of time. I can catch the gist of what he is saying, and he spends about 10 pages explaining the difference between the Latin word “merse” where we get “immerse” and showing how that relates to what BAPTIZO actually means.
It doesn’t have to do with immersion into something. That’s all I’m going to say about that. It’s confusing enough for me. I’m not going to confuse you too.
5. Baptism by fire. There’s purification. Those of you who are fascinated by 2 Peter 3, pay attention to this third one, which we will see again.
- BAPTO literally means or denotes a dipping, plunging, or immersing of something into a liquid
- BAPTIZO suggests a more figurative sense that something is identified by something else to indicate a change. That’s its significance.
There is one baptism. Is it water baptism or is it the baptism by the Spirit? I believe it is the baptism by the Spirit which is symbolized by the water baptism. The two go together, and that’s the purpose of water baptism, because understanding what happens in our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection is pretty abstract.
God has given us a concrete symbol in order to teach positional sanctification. The problem is nobody understands what it symbolizes very well, so they never teach that. And nobody learns what they’re supposed to learn when they go to a time of ritual Christian baptism because nobody teaches it.
I’ve always taught that the purpose of baptism is to understand our new identity in Christ: that we are in the body of Christ, and that the power of the sin nature over us has been broken. We still have it, but its power, which was never broken in the Old Testament, has now been broken.
That gets us started in understanding this phrase “baptism by the Spirit.” Next time we will work our way through that and the other ministries of God the Holy Spirit to believers today.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word. Thank You for the clarity of Your revelation. Father, we know it takes us time to understand some of these things. We’re often confused by prior concepts, prior knowledge, and just the fact that some things are more difficult to understand than others.
“But we understand that we are united in Christ and identified with His death, burial, and resurrection, so that all of that is part of becoming a new creature in Christ. That’s who we are; that’s our new identity. Our sin nature’s broken; Paul says in Romans 6 we are to consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to righteousness.
“Father, we thank You for revealing these things to us and realizing how significant that makes us as members of the body of Christ.
“Father, we pray for those who are listening, who are here who may have never understood the gospel, may have never understood that it’s not based on what we do. It’s based on what Christ did, and all we need to do is rest in Him, trust in Him, rely upon Him, believe He died for us and paid the penalty for our sin, and then we have, as a free gift, eternal life. We thank You for our new life in Him. In Christ’s name, amen.”