The Better Baptism

The Better Baptism

First Sunday After Epiphany

Sermon starts at 15:22 in the recording

All Readings

Service Booklet

Gospel: Mark 1:4-11

4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed,

‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

Afterthoughts: The Empowering of the Holy Spirit

This past Sunday we remembered the baptism of Jesus.
In the Gospels, this event is significant because it is the launching point for the ministry of Jesus
(which came after His temptation in the wilderness).

His baptism was a demarcation point for His life.
After this, His life was a slow and steady journey to the cross.

My main point in the sermon on Sunday was to show that there was a difference between the baptism of John (which dealt with repentance) and the baptism of Jesus (which dealt with indwelling Spirit of God).

As a further reflection of the lessons and the sermon, I wanted to look more closely at the reading from Acts as it brings up the “so what” issue.

“While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— altogether there were about twelve of them.”

Acts 19:1-7

Paul seemed really concerned about whether or not the disciples had received “the right” baptism.
Why was he so picky about this?
Why did their baptism make a difference?

Let’s think through this.

Paul had encountered some disciples.

But I thought that Jesus was the only one that had disciples?

Disciple comes from the root of a word that means “a learner.”
(And from where we get our word for math).
If you remember, Jesus’ disciples called Him Rabbi and Teacher.
They were His students; they were learners.

So Paul had encountered people that were the students of John and that movement in some way.

So now, Paul is trying to clarify who they are.
He asks, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit?”

Why would he ask this?
Think back to Pentecost.
It was the mark of the new Church.
Paul writes of this in the great doxology from the beginning of Ephesians:

In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

“What’s a Holy Spirit?” they ask.

Ah, Paul figures out the issue.
They were stuck on repentance and hadn’t yet learned about the Holy Spirit, which meant that their understanding of salvation was flawed, and thus affecting their life.

They hadn’t heard of Jesus.
They only understood John’s baptism (no power)
Paul invited them into Jesus’ baptism (power).

And what happens after they get baptized into the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
Holy Spirit things happen.
(Again, think Pentecost).

To me, this point is brought to the forefront with Marks’ use of the Greek preposition eis in the Gospel passage, and specifically what happens when the Spirit descends upon Jesus. More on this in a moment

The translation says that the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove.
Which is a good translation for the other three Gospel renderings of this passage (they use a different preposition).

But Mark, being a less “flowery” and a “just the facts” type of Gospel guy seems to record the most important part of this moment:
God’s empowering Spirit.

Mark says that the heavens “split” (schizoid – where we get our word for schism). This is a way of saying that something earthshaking is about to happen.

So what earthshaking thing happened?
Again, the translation is “descended upon” but the visual here is the Holy Spirit comes “into Him.”
Not on but in.
A sign of power.

If we remember the Spirit of God in the Old Testament, it comes and goes as God directs. The spirit comes upon and leaves, many prophets, priests and kings.

Instead of merely resting upon.
The Spirit would now indwell.

Which is where the Church comes in.

No longer would the people of God rely solely on a prophet, priest or king to give God’s direction and discern God’s wisdom (which is essentially mediating their relationship with God).

Instead, God’s own Spirit would indwell the people of His Church to lead them in the way of life.

Another way of understanding this would be this:
The same Holy Spirit that was present in the life of the Apostles
can be present in you and me.

But how?

(This is where we come back to the baptism thing,
And mainly the difference between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism).

Have you ever heard someone say, “But I am a good person.”?
Or, “I do all the right things.”?
Here is what Jesus would say about that.

“A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”

Luke 18:18-19

John’s baptism is an understanding that I must live a “good life.”
Be a good person.
Do the right things.
Say the right words.

It is a recognition of the importance of doing good.
(Which is not a bad thing.)
Just not the thing that makes us a part of God’s community.


To be in a relationship with a Holy God,
We must be a holy people.
We must be righteous.
And if this is not true, we are in trouble.
Paul says this about our chances of being righteous,

as it is written:
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
there is no one who has understanding,
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
there is no one who shows kindness,
there is not even one.”
“Their throats are opened graves;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of vipers is under their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery are in their paths,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Romans 3:10-18

So what will resolve this?

“since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”

Romans 3:23-25

Jesus’ baptism (as opposed to John’s).

The word for baptism comes from the cloth making world.
It was used to speak about dyeing cloth by dipping it or immersing it into something.

When we are baptized into something, it reflects a change.

For John’s baptism, it is a change of understanding about ourselves.
It is the revelation that we are sinners needing to repent and be cleansed.

For Jesus’ baptism, it is an ontological change.
It is a change in nature.
From unholy to holy.
From unrighteous to righteous.
From lost to found.

My point in all of this is not to say to someone,
“You are not…”
“You’re not enough.”

(I am not intending to make the conversation about the two baptisms a negative one. Indeed, the work of John was of one “who would prepare the way; the first baptism makes way for the second).

Instead, I intend to say,
“You could be.”
“You have hope.”
It is a way of seeing what could be.

Let’s go back to the reading from Acts and Paul’s interactions with some disciples that he met.
Once Paul and these disciples realized what needed to be done, the disciples made a choice.
After they were baptized, things changed.
They were now a part of God’s family.
And empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.

And we can be too.
By realizing our true (failed) nature.
And by placing faith in the work and baptism of Jesus.
That we might live no more for ourselves but to the One who has redeemed us, Jesus Christ, to the glory of His Name.

Will you live into this hope with me friends?