“A Bigger Baptism”
January 21, 2018
By John Partridge*
Genesis 1:1-5 Mark 1:4-11 Acts 19:1-7
As you probably know by now, I am a fan of science fiction and franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek. In the Star Trek original series, as well as in the Next Generation, we would occasionally see a technologically advanced civilization with starships encounter a far more primitive one. The Federation of Planets had rules about such encounters. There were rules because if a primitive society would see Starfleet crew members using their technology they would attribute those abilities to magic or believe that the members of Star Fleet were gods. Starfleet understood that just the act of seeing something could change the course of history forever. Simply knowing that something was possible could change the direction of science and culture forever.
Now, imagine with me a world where fire fighters were stuck in the previous century. No new technology has been developed for a hundred years. There are no fire trucks, or hoses, or pressurized fire hydrants, or internal building sprinkling systems. In this world, the world of firefighting is essentially one of prevention and rescue. Buildings would have buckets of sand that could be used to fight fires and possibly some sort of bucket brigade, but the primary role of a firefighter in the event of a major fire was to try to rescue those unfortunate souls who were still inside the building or otherwise endangered by the fire.
This seems ridiculous to us because while fire prevention and rescue are important roles of a fire fighter, we understand that fighting the fire itself with water and whatever tools we can place at their disposal, is a critical and vital part of what firefighters do. Firefighting is bigger than simply working at prevention and rescue. With that in mind, we begin this morning by reading from Genesis 1:1-5, where we hear these words:
1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
While this passage is probably familiar to all of us, I want to point out that in it we see two persons of the Trinity. In verse one, we hear “In the beginning God…” and in verse two, “…and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Similarly, as we read the story of Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River in Mark 1:4-11, we see in it all three persons of the Trinity.
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
As Jesus (who is the Son) comes up out of the water, the Spirit of God descends from heaven like a dove, and the voice of God the Father declares his love for Jesus and declares that he is pleased with his Son. I know that understanding the Trinity can sometimes be difficult, but it is because of passages like these that we know that it is real and we are compelled to wrestle with it.
But then in Acts 19:1-7, the Apostle Paul meets some disciples of Jesus who knew about God, who knew about Jesus, and who knew about baptism, but were missing a vital piece of the puzzle.
19:1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
The believers and disciples that Paul met in Ephesus had been baptized by John, but they had not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ or at least had not heard all of it. Perhaps they had not heard the story about Jesus’ death and resurrection. All they knew was what John had preached, that you had to repent of your sins. They were missing a vital piece of the puzzle. It was as if they were trying to fight fires without a knowledge of water, or without fire trucks, hoses, pumps, and pressurized water systems. They had been baptized by John the Baptist as a symbol of their repentance from sin, but they had never been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and they had never received the Holy Spirit. Perhaps like a primitive society that had been exposed to advanced technology, simply knowing that things could be different, changed the course of their lives forever. Knowing about Jesus, and knowing about a bigger baptism, they were filled with the Spirit, spoke in foreign languages they had never learned, and were given the gift of prophecy.
What these believers had known was true but their knowledge was missing a critical and vital component. Yes, baptism is about repenting from our sins. And yes, baptism is an outward sign that for us, takes the place of circumcision. But while those things are both true, these things alone are missing a critical and vital component and that is the participation of the Spirit of God in our baptism. Ever since the day of Pentecost, whenever we are baptized we invite the Holy Spirit to descend upon us, fill us, work within us and through us to do the work of Jesus Christ in our world. John’s baptism was big, and it was important, but this is the bigger baptism.
Being filled with the Spirit of God is life changing. It is such a powerful thing that simply knowing about it can change the lives and the futures of others. And so, unlike the officers and crew of a starship in Star Trek, we must not hide ourselves from people who haven’t heard the good news of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Instead, we must do all that we can to tell as many people as we can so that lives can be changed, people can hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, be baptized themselves, and receive the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
You have it within your power to change the course of history forever.
All that you have to do is to trust God and share what you know with the people around you.
What you have within you is life altering, world changing stuff because it is fueled and powered by nothing less than the Spirit of the holy creator God.
We can’t hide out in the church.
We musts go out from this place… and change the world.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.