Please click here for newsletter – 10 January 2016 – Baptism of the Lord
Baptism of the Lord
John the Baptist dunked people in water and by that means somehow made their hearts more prepared for the Lord. John explained that Christ himself would not baptize with water, but with the Holy Spirit and with fire. But can you be dunked into the Holy Spirit? And then there is the fact that Christ himself was baptized with water. Why was he baptized in this way, if he himself was going to baptize others with the Spirit and not with water?
And so baptism is confusing, isn’t it? How are we to understand it?
The people who came to John to be baptized came confessing their sins (Mt 3:6). They knew that they were in spiritual trouble, and they knew they couldn’t save themselves from it; they needed God’s help. And so John’s immersing a person in water began spiritual regeneration for that person, because by letting John drop his body in water, a person being baptized let go in his heart too and surrendered to God.
That first letting go, with its acknowledgement of sin and its desire for God, opens a person to God. And once such a person has opened himself to God, God can send his Holy Spirit into him. Then, when a person receives the Holy Spirit, his whole self is plunged into God. This is the baptism of the Lord, the baptism of the Spirit, which the baptism of water enables.
Baptism of water, and baptism of the Holy Spirit, are the beginning of spiritual regeneration, because they are a surrender to God. In the openness of that surrender, the Spirit comes into a person, and God’s grace begins to flow into him. Unless it is somehow stopped again by sin, that grace flows until, in heaven, a person is united to God in prefect righteousness. So, once a person is baptized, with water and the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, which is given in the Spirit and by the Spirit, begin a spiritual rebirth in that person that leads to new life in the Lord.
Why then does the Lord himself accept baptism, since he needs no spiritual regeneration?
The answer goes to the heart of the whole story. Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. And he is with us at every stage in our journey to him, even in its very beginning, which is the baptism of the Lord.