There was a brief period of time where I studied Pentacostal Theology. Even if you have not studied this before I am sure you have heard about Baptism by Holy Spirit and by Fire. In Pentacostal Theology they teach three baptisms.
- Baptism by Water
- Baptism by the Holy Spirit
- Baptism by Fire
Pentacostal theology will deviate on how the latter two on that list are to be understood as teachings vary from sect to sect. But what is consistent is that they follow the Baptist view of Baptism by water, that means they believe in immersion only and that Trinitarian water baptism totally does nothing at all.
At some point after that, in Pentacostal Theology, they teach that you should expect an overwhelming experience after you have cleansed your life of secret sins. Specifically, you are expected to receive an overwhelming burning of the bosom followed by a manifestation of speaking in tongues and uncontrollable body movements. Some will call this Baptism of the Spirit, other will distinguish between different manifestations of this experience and call one Baptism of the Spirit and the other Baptism of Fire.
In continuing my work on Cessationism I am going to present some of the key passages that they use for this. I am also going to demonstrate why I believe it is not theologically correct to teach multiple baptisms.
Baptism by Fire
The key passage used to teach baptism by fire is the narrative with John the Baptist at the beginning of each of the Gospels. Notice that John juxtaposes his baptism against that of Christ.
Read the above verse carefully, notice that if you keep reading past verse 11 you see that John defines baptism of fire as the unquenchable fire that the chaff is thrown into.
“7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. ; 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:7-8 ESV
In the above Passage Mark saw fit to stop after the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptism of fire and the associated imagery of Hell are left out. This is why I associate baptism of fire with hell, if it was also associated with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit then we would expect to see the hell narrative here but we don’t.
Here in Luke we have a very similar narrative, and it includes the baptism of fire. Also, notice the hell language is back.
Notice above that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is clarified as associated with the distinctive features of Christs Baptism. We see the presence of the Father and the Son with the proceeding of the Spirit upon Christ. This is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, notice that the fire and hell language are not present.
Simply put, baptism of fire has nothing to do with speaking in tongues or wiggling around. Instead means going to Hell. You don’t want to experience that. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is what saves us so that we don’t get baptized in fire. Notice the similar chaff and fire language in the below parable.
Baptism by the Holy Spirit
Something to understand about the Baptism of John by water and repentance is that it was type and shadow of the Baptism in Christ. While this is apparent in the texts I have already presented, another place in which it becomes more clear is this conversation we see take place later after Pentecost.
The Baptism of John was more similar to the proselyte baptisms done in the first century. When a gentile would convert to Judaism they would have to be baptized. What was significant about John’s baptism is that he performed it on natural born Jews already in the mosaic covenant. This signified that they needed cleansing as well. But this was only type and shadow meant to instruct and point to Christ (1). The idea is that the Jews needed Jesus as much as the Gentiles.
John’s water baptism is irrelevant today, Jesus has already come, died for sin, and is risen. Today we are Baptized into Christ. There are not three or even two Baptisms, there is only one.
“4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— ; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism” Eph 4:4-5 ESV
In this one baptism we are promised many gifts. Specifically we are taught that in such a simple thing as baptism by the working of God, the Holy Spirit is poured out on us.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:11-12 ESV
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 ESV
Some try to argue that the process being spoken above is a spiritual baptism that New Covenant water Baptism is only symbolic of. The problem is that this teaches two baptisms when (Eph 4:5) teaches there is only one.
To address this, some I have spoken with say that a water Trinitarian Baptism isn’t really baptism at all, and it is only being born again in new obedience and repentance that is the true Biblical Baptism. The error this makes is that Jesus himself refers to water Trinitarian Baptism as “baptism”. Thus, since there is only one baptism, this is it:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matt 28:19 ESV
It’s not the water in and of itself that accomplishes such things, but water combined with the Word of God as the Holy Spirit performs his work upon the one being baptized. There is no greater image of Grace than this, one receives this blessing with no work of themselves.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV
New obedience is of course true, it’s just not any kind of baptism at all. It’s not even being born again. New obedience is a heavenly blessing that we can rejoice in, but it is not something we should look to as proof of the Spirits work.
The beauty of true Biblical Baptism is that it is entirely an act of God poured on the recipient. Teaching multiple baptisms for New Covenant Christians, no matter what theological framework one is using, ultimately turns one in on themselves. They must gaze introspectively on their behavior or manifestations of tongues or other gifts for assurance of salvation and the work of the Spirit in their life.
Salvation is God reaching down and delivering the death burial and resurrection of Christ to you from outside of your body. This happens in a directional sense from outside of your body moving into it in a physical manner that you can see, touch, taste, and feel. It’s not an emotional or subjective experience, and there are generally witnesses that saw it happen. There is only one baptism and it pours straight into you. The recipient cannot question that it happened even in the weakest of moments.