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THE BAPTISM AND FILLING OF RUACH HA'KODESH
by Alon Ronk
I was snooping on various chat rooms just to see what different people's conversations were about. I watched awhile on an Islam chat room. At that particular time there was no discussion of anything religious. In fact, it was a little on the carnal side. I don't mean to say by that that their conversation is always like that but it was at that time. Then I headed over to a Jewish chat room to listen in on them awhile. They were discussing whether it is lawful to open mail on the Shabat. That was an amusing conversation. I headed later on to a Christian chat room and someone was asking about the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, and what is the filling of the Holy Ghost. It was at that point that I decided to write an article on the Baptism and Filling of the Holy Ghost.
Some people who are reading this will already be wondering if they will agree with me or not. Some, after reading it, will no doubt feel like they need to set me straight. Whether you agree with me or not, or just don't know, I simply ask you to take your Bibles out, listen to what I have to say, and at least consider it. This is a somewhat longer study than usual so you may wish to copy and paste it to word pad so you can read it off line.
What is the Baptism of Ruach HaKodesh? What is the Filling of the Holy Ghost? Is it the same thing? We begin this study in Matthew's gospel, chapter 3. Mt.3:1-12, " In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselve s, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
John's baptizing was part of his mission to prepare the way for the Messiah. It was also in fulfillment of a prophecy found in the book of Isaiah. John said to the crowds, " I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." I must necessarily point out that Jesus did not preach the same way to everyone. He always deigned His messages to the needs of His audience. For example, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus used the word, "Blessed" repeatedly. His message was positive and brought comfort, and hope, although there were also some things that may have seemed somewhat unreasonable to them.
But in Matthew chapter 23, Jesus repeatedly pronounced "woes" and condemnation on His audience. Notice how stern this message was. Three woes are pronounced on the earth during the tribulation period: Rev. 8:13, "And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!" Rev. 9:12 One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter." Rev 11:14, "The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly." Rev. 12:12, "Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
In contrast to the three woes during the Tribulation, Jesus pronounced woe on the Scribes and Pharisees 8 times in Matthew 23.. That's more than twice as much for this small group of people than for the whole earth during the tribulation period: a time of which it is said in Matthew 24:21, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be."
You may be wondering what all that has to do with Baptism in the Holy Spirit. As we return to our opening text, keep in mind that the same men in Matthew 23 are present on location in Matthew chapter 3. This will prove to be most significant and will help us to interpret the passage more correctly. You will notice how John addresses them. "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Luke describes the same event in Luke chapter 3.
But in Mark chapter 1 we see it from a slightly different angle. Mark 1:1-8, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost."
Please notice that Mark does not mention a baptism of fire. But you will also notice that in the two places where a baptism of fire IS mentioned, it is when the Pharisees and Saducees are present. This is not useless information which the Bible provides for us. As it turns out, the baptism of fire is a baptism of fiery judgement. It is a message appropriate for the "generation of vipers", as John called them. Notice how John pre-empts their possible argument, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." He tells them if they don't repent, being the offspring of Abraham will do them no good. John said, " God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." It is just my humble opinion that it is at least possible that John was baptizing in the same spot where Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. The stones, John was referring to, may have been the memorial stones that Joshua set up at the crossing ( see Josh.4:8-9). There were actually 24 stones in all. 12 stones were taken out of the Jordan and later placed in Gilgal, and 12 were placed in the Jordan river. 12 stones were visible 12 were hidden.
It is this wrath to come that was the baptism of fire John warned them about. How does the Bible portray this baptism of fire? "Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner [those baptized with the Holy Ghost] ; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." That is obviously not a good thing.
Notice one more thing. John said, "he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." The Baptism of the Holy Ghost, as with the judgement of fire, are both spoken of as something that is to happen at a future time. "He SHALL baptize." Jesus also said in John 7:37-39, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" First of all note that Jesus did not say, if you believe in me, out of your belly shall flow... What He did say was, " He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said." The Pharisees believed in the right God, but they believed wrongly about Him. Therefore, a living faith can only be one that is based on the scriptures. Just agreeing or siding with the "christian philosophy" is not going to work. You will also notice that the Bible spoke of the giving of the Holy Ghost as something yet future. It would not take place until after Jesus was glorified. Luke 24:49 also says, "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
When the day of Shavuot (pentecost) came came, this same Luke records Peter saying in Acts 2:37-39, "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." You will notice that the promise of the Holy Ghost is now spoken of as being fulfilled.
If it can be shown that people were "Filled" with the Holy Ghost before Shavuot, and since the Baptism of the Holy Ghost did not take place until Shavuot, except for the disciples in the upper room, "And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:" - John 20:22, then it becomes clear that we are talking about two separate events. Consider the following verses:
Luke 1:15, "For he [John] shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." Luke 1:41, "And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:" Luke 1:67, "And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost..."
Here are three examples of people filled with the Holy Ghost before Shavuot, not to mention the incidences in the Torah; i.e. Exodus 31:3; 35:31. So what is the filling of the Holy Ghost and what does it accomplish? We will first answer that question and then we will answer the question, what is the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and what does it accomplish?
First, what does it mean to be "filled" with something? The word "filled", as it pertains to this discussion, comes from the greek word, "plhqw" (pletho). Let's see how this word applies itself to our study. We could speak of filling as in filling up a sack or a cup. But that applies to material stuff. For example, place a rock in a full glass of water and the rock will displace the water and send it out over the sides of the cup. But what if you fill the cup of water with light? There is no displacement. Since the Spirit of God is not composed of matter, perhaps there is another way of looking at it.
We have several examples of "filling" in the scriptures which have nothing to do with filling something up, like your gas tank for instance. All of them use the same greek word, pletho.
Luke 4:28, "And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath."
Luke 5:26, "And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day."
Luke 6:11, "And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus." .
Acts 2:4, "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
Acts 3:10, "And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him."
Acts 5:17, "Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation."
Acts 13:45, "But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming."
Acts 19:29, "And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre."
It's plain to see that various people, at various times, and for various reasons, can come under the control and influence of a certain emotion or state of mind, and their actions or conduct is determined by that which they are being influenced by. The same holds true of the Spirit of God. If you are filled with the Spirit of God, it means that you are under His control and influence. It also means that your actions and conduct and speech will be a result of that influence. It is always in accordance with God's ways, His will, His Word, and in all righteousness. We are led to do this or that, but we are not puppets on a string with no free will of our own. This is why it's so easy to quench the Spirit of God. And the Bible tells us, don't do that, in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, "Quench not the Spirit."
It's interesting that Luke alone uses the word Pletho in the context of influencing a persons behavior. This is also the meaning of being filled with the Spirit. His writings also contain the most references to the Holy Ghost. Perhaps an answer for this may be found in Acts 10:44-47, "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" The Jewish believers were amazed that the Gentile believers also received the Holy Ghost. The fact that only Luke uses the word Pletho in the context of influencing, and makes more mention of the Holy Ghost than any other writer, and that he himself was a Gentile, ref lects the work of the Spirit of God in the structure of the Bible. It seems to emphasize the point that, "on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Also one additional note. The word Pletho is translated "furnished" in Matthew 22:10, "So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests." This would suggest that, not only does the Spirit of God fill a person, i.e. influence, motivate, stir up, or arouse etc, but also enables that person to perform what God is leading that person to do. So we would expect that every time a person was filled with the Holy Ghost, that it would produce a certain desired result. Let's look at some examples.
Acts 2:4, "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Here, the Spirit of God was in complete sovereign control. The Holy Spirit Himself initiated this event, not in response to their desires or expectations, but as a sudden planned act of Divine sovereignty. He also enabled each believer among them to simultaneously speak in other languages that every one could understand, and without the aid of an interpreter. These were known languages that the believers had never learned. It was not a cacophony of languages at which every one had to strain to pick out their own, everyone heard only their own language. That is, of course, is a great miracle that defies explanation. But the Spirit's filling produced a certain result.
Acts 4:5-12, "And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Th is filling of Peter prompted and enabled him to say exactly what needed to be said with no fear. Acts 4:12 is a scripture that even today is used often in witnessing to others about salvation in Jesus. Acts 4: 31 is another example of how the filling of God's Spirit produced a great result; "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. So we can see how the filling of the Holy Ghost is a Divine act and produces certain results. The results are not always the same for everyone all the time. God is in control and uses the believers to accomplish His will.
The filling of the Holy Ghost was a repeatable experience. We see at least two places where Paul was filled with the Spirit. Acts 9:17, "And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." And again in Acts 13:9, "Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him...: We see Peter repeatedly experiencing the filling of the Holy Ghost and, of course, many other times that are not written. Acts 2:4, "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Peter among them. And then again in Acts 4:8, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel..."
It could be argued that Peter was still filled from the first filling and that this filling is continuous. In truth, it is supposed to be that way. You and I both know that it isn't always the case in our lives for there are also times that we are motivated by the flesh. Peter was not being filled with the Spirit when Paul found it necessary to rebuke Peter to his face, "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" - Galatians 2:11-14.
The Bible commands us to be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:17-20, "Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." We follow this command, to be filled with the Spirit, when we draw on Him for His leadership and enabling, and follow the inner promptings of the Spirit. But do not think that you can use Him as a genie to work on behalf of YOUR will. When we walk with Him we are an instrument of HIS will.
What is the Baptism of the Holy Ghost? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:13, " For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." The Baptism of the Spirit, then, is to place those who become believers into the body of Messiah. Only those who are born again are saved. No person without the Holy Spirit can belong to Jesus, for it is written in Romans 8:9, " But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." One can only be saved by Jesus. One can only be in Him by the Spirit. One can only be born again by the Spirit of God.
Jesus had been confronted by a man named Nicodemus. Here was a jewish man with a greek name, for whatever reason. He was schooled in the Torah, a teacher and perhaps a member of the Sanhedrin. In John 3:2-5, part of their conversation went like this. "The same [Nicodemus] came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
It's interesting that Nicodemus would say, " we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." Why did Nicodemus say, "We" instead of "I" ? No doubt, the religious leaders in Israel during the days of the Messiah, had discussed Jesus behind closed doors often. But with all of his learning, he was quite unprepared for Jesus answer. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus must have thought, what does that supposed to mean? Are you saying I won't see the Kingdom of God? Nicodemus asked, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" Nicodemus was trying to rationally understand what Jesus meant by being born again. But because it must be spiritually discerned Nicodemus didn't get it. He tried to relate it to his physical, earthly understanding.
Jesus continued, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." I believe that it is written in the Scriptures because we all need to know this and it applies to each of us equally. However, originally, we find our Lord only telling Nicodemus that he must be born again. It's not in any of the other gospels. This would be another example of Jesus personally relating to His audience; in this case, Nicodemus. So we must ask our selves, what did this statement mean to Nicodemus? He obviously did eventually get it. Twice more he is mentioned. John 7:44-51, "And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" And again in John 19: 32-40, "Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews [i.e. Jewish leadership], besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came th erefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury."
There are several ways to interpret what Jesus meant by being born again by the water and the Spirit. I think everyone is basically agreed on what Jesus meant by the Spirit. It's the water that throws many. Some think it means physical birth. Could it mean that? Certainly Nicodemus could have understood it to mean that. After all, let us not forget what John said to the religious leaders that came out to his baptism, "And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Also remember their boast in John 8:31-39, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham."
So it is possible that Nicodemus may have understood Jesus to be talking about physical birth, but it would not be his only possible understanding as we shall see later. Second, if one had to have a physical birth to enter the Kingdom of God, where would that put Adam and Eve? Third, the Gentiles are also partakers with redeemed Israel of eternal life. Would they understand the concept of salvation by pedigree? The teaching of the new birth was not limited to Nicodemus. What about still born or aborted babies, or those killed in accidents before birth? Does the grace of God no longer apply to them? Do they simply cease to exist? Is physical birth a part of the gospel? So it would seem that Jesus was not referring to physical birth.
What about water baptism? Could Jesus have been referring to water baptism? As a proof of that many turn to Mark 16:15-16, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Yet this verse only answers two of three possible questions. What happens to a baptized believer? They are saved. What happens to a non believer, baptized or not? They are not damned. What happens to a believer who had not been baptized? This particular verse does not answer this question. This means we have to look to other scriptures to find the answer to that question. John 5:24 answers that question. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." If baptism was necessary for salvation, Jesus would have certainly said so.
But what about Acts 2:38? "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." I think the problem actually lies in the little word, "for". It is my understanding that the word, "for", in this verse, takes on the meaning of, "because of". Let me tell you why. You go into a post office and see a sign that says, Wanted for murder. Obviously you don't go apply for the job. They are not looking for someone to commit murder, they are looking for someone who already has. In this case, the word "for" means , "Because of". It's actually a common meaning. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, lists this definition as one of the meanings of the word, for: " As a result of; because of; jumped for joy." To see if this meaning is appropriate for this verse, we will have to first see if it is in keeping with the overall context of the Scriptures.
The apostle Paul tells us that it is the gospel alone whereby we are saved. Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." He also proclaimed that it was his mission to preach that gospel and that baptism was not a part of it. " 1 Co 1:17, "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." Paul made a distinction between the two.
Furthermore, we can see that salvation preceeds water baptism. Acts 8:26-38, "And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."
Acts 10:34-47, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testif y that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" These Gentile believers received the Holy Ghost prior to baptism, not in response to it.
There is a common element in all of these scriptures I referred to however. The common element in these verses is the preaching of the Word. So the third interpretation as to what Jesus meant by the word "water" in John 3:5 is, that the water represents the Word of God. There is only one other verse in all of the Bible that uses the term, "Born again". It is found in 1 Peter 1:23 and should surely shed light on the interpretation of "water" found in John's gospel. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." There is no record of Nicodemus ever being baptized and he would surely have been ostracized by the Sanhedrin if he did. We are led to understand that Nicodemus became a believer in the Messiah. This faith had to have been based on what he had heard, not something he had done. For Salvation is not of works, but of Grace. For Nicodemus to understand the Torah, or Tenach as a basis for Salvation is also no t a concept that he would be unfamiliar with. He would have had trouble with the concept of being born again for it was an unprecedented statement. He had never heard anything like that before. In fact, he never asked what Jesus meant by water, he was only interested in finding out what Jesus meant by being born again. "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
Consider the following verses and see whether the scriptures themselves are the best candidate for the meaning of the word 'water'. The word of God is absolutely essential to our salvation.
Psalm 119:9, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word."
John 17:17, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."
John 15:3, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."
Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Remember Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Eph 5:26, "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word."
Hebrews 4:2, "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." Notice in this verse how the Gospel, which is the power of God unto Salvation, is synonymous with the Word of God. Notice also that the Gospel, i.e. the word, did not profit because it was not "mixed with faith" and Romans says that "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
James [Jacob] 1:18, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." God begat us as sons through the new birth by His Word.
James [Jacob] 1:21, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." Again, it is specifically stated that it is the Word of God that is able to save your souls.
So, if it comes to a choice, which is necessary to our Salvation, baptism, or the Word of God, which would you choose?
We have seen that the filling of the Spirit of God is a repeatable experience. It should also be a continuous experience. But with the Baptism of the Holy Ghost Ghost, we see that it is a one time event. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." We do not keep getting baptized into the body of Messiah, it is a one time thing. Ephesisans 4:4-6 also tells us, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and [one] Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Notice the words, "one body", "one Spirit", "one hope", "one Lord", "one faith", "one baptism", "One God" and [one] "Father". "One baptism" is just as singular as the rest of the singularities in this passage of Scripture. Water baptism can and is repeated. But the baptism of the Holy Ghost is as singular as God Himself.
It is not enough to just know these these things. But we must ask ourselves, why is it important? How do these teachings effect our lives? Hebrews 6:1 tells us, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God." After we have the foundation in place, we should not seek to continue building it, but building ON it. It is important not to continue to seek what you already have but rather to seek after what you do constantly need.
Sanctification is also a part of the believer's life. Initially, when we are born again we are sanctified to God. That is, we are set apart from sin and the carnality of the world and unto God. There is no limbo. We are not set apart from the world, period! We are set apart from the world and UNTO God. Now we become His. We are a separated and called out people. We are His people. This happens when the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Messiah. It is the moment of our salvation.
You may often ask yourself, so why do I still do wrong? Let me inform you that no matter how good other believers may appear to you everyone has their struggle with our carnal self. Perhaps no one expressed this better than the Apostle Paul himself. In Romans 7:14-25 Paul wrote, "For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the lawof sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. Paul said again in 1 Timothy 1:15, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." Paul thought of himself as being the chief of sinners.
Nevertheless, Paul was not defeated. He knew that though he was sanctified to God initially, he was continuing to be daily sanctified and conformed to the character of Messiah. Paul was always growing toward this goal, to be like Jesus. It was the supernatural filling of the Holy Ghost that provided Paul with certain qualities and enabled him to think and respond biblically. It is a continuing process. To don't become a 'model saint' over night. Neither did the mighty oak grow in a day. The important thing to remember though is this, the oak got as big and strong as it did because it continued to grow and was constantly nourished.
It's important to understand that sanctification does not mean the removal of sin. It means to be set apart. For example, we see a mountain being sanctified in Exodus 19:23, "And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it." The mountain obviously did not need to be purged of any sin. Again we see an altar being sanctified in Exodus 29:37, "Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy." In Isaiah 8:13 God tells us to sanctify Him, "Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." In Isaiah 66:17 the bible tells us of those who sanctified themselves to do evil, "They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD."
When God sanctified us He set us apart unto Himself to be a holy, consecrated people. But He also has a plan for each one of our lives. So He also set us apart individually unto specific purposes. It is through the filling of God's Spirit that we are able to exercise our spiritual gifts which are tailor made to our calling. Romans 12:1-8 tells us, " I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, be ing many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness."
The gifts God has given us, whatever they may be, cannot be done through the flesh, but by the Spirit. It is impossible for us to sin in the Spirit, and it is equally impossible to please God through the flesh. A saved person, born again by the Spirit of God, baptized by the Spirit, still can not exercise their spiritual gifts except they be filled by the Spirit.
As we continue to experience God's sanctification in our lives we learn more of Jesus. But not only do we learn about Him, we experience Him. We experience His joy, His sorrow, His suffering, His goodness etc. As we experience Him on a daily basis we become more like He is. Not in His Deity, of course, but in His character. The life of Jesus is produced in us by God's Holy Spirit. We bear certain fruits which manifest themselves in certain spiritual character traits in direct contrast to normal human traits. Galatins 5:16-23 says, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
Our new character becomes the way we really are, not just an act or the following of rules. How many rules would you break if you knew ther were no consequences involved? But if it comes from the heart you obey for the love of Jesus. In order to grow toward this goal, we must be filled daily with the Spirit of God. But that means also that me must learn to empty ourselves of self, for remember the words, " For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
So as we understand the doctrine of the baptism and the filling of the Holy Ghost, and rightly divide them, then can we rightly apply it and weave it into our every day walk of life. I do not write this as one who has perfected it. Preachers are not people who have learned how to be perfect and then in turn teach every one else how to be perfect. I know the same kinds of struggles as you do. But we are all heading toward the finish line and therefore we should be the more sincere about the race. Submerge yourself in the Word of God, Prayer, Praise and Worship of God, focusing in on Him and meditating on Him, and draw strength and positive influence from other believers. This will help you to grow strong in the Lord.