Depending on your Christian upbringing, there were more than likely one or two baptisms that were emphasized to you while you were growing up. The more conservative churches would have emphasized water baptism either as infants or upon ones personal confession as an adult. If your upbringing was more on the Pentecostal/Charismatic side of things, then you no doubt would have heard a lot about the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well. Yet there are few who ever speak about the third baptism which scripture speaks of which will be the topic of this post, oftentimes referred to as the baptism of fire.
Just as it is with the first two, there is much disagreement about what the baptism of fire actually refers to. Some believe it speaks of Pentecost and the ‘tongues as of fire’ which came down on the 120. Others believe that the fire refers to judgment which is perhaps a more convincing theory when one looks at the immediate context of Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16 where the surrounding texts speak of judgment and wrath. Yet the one thing that pretty much everyone does agree on when it comes to baptism is that it is all about ones identification with Christ. This is clearly taught in Romans 6-5 which says:-
Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised for the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.
So if the baptism of fire has something to do with our identification with Christ then judgment from Christ does not seem to be the right answer either. So what other options are there? We know that Christ was baptized in water by John and we know that the Spirit came upon Him immediately after, Then a voice came from heaven which said, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (That is identification – Luke 3:22). So is there another baptism that scripture speaks of that we can look for? Yes there is!
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him saying, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able”. So “Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized.” – Mark 10:35-39
If you know how the story ends then you know that Jesus is talking here about suffering, persecution and even death. In Luke 12:50 we see it again.
“But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished.”
Baptism is not just a symbol of imputed righteousness, having Christ’s righteousness credited to us. The outward witness or testimony of a life truly laid down and raised up in Christ is that it will reflect Christ’s own walk. That is not to say that everyone will be killed for their faith but it does mean that, to varying degrees, we will all be hated by the world (and sometimes the religious authorities), tempted as Christ was and acquainted with grief and sorrows. These are the promises of Matthew 10:22 and 2 Timothy 3:12.
When Jesus confronted Saul on the road to Damascus, He said to him who had being persecuting the church, “Why are you persecuting Me (Acts 9:4)?” There is a union between Christ and the Church which we do not fully comprehend; though the early saints had their finger on it.
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. – Acts 5:41
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God; and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. – Romans 8:16-17.
…and not in any way be terrified by your adversaries, which to them is a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation. – Philippians 1:28
Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. – Philippians 3:8-10
After I had been meditating on these things a few nights ago I came across another portion of scripture as if with new eyes:-
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.
And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
Christ’s call to the Christian is not merely to believe in Him but to pick up his cross and follow Him. You may bear lighter scars than your brothers in different parts of the world but make no mistake; all who wish to follow Him will experience valleys, losses, trials and temptation along the way but for the sake of your inheritance, you will learn to be content and even joyful in all things.