"I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."Mark 1:8(NASB)
For thirty years the Lord Jesus was being prepared for His sacrificial act in God's redemptive plan, and finally John the Baptist strode onto the biblical scene as a prophetic voice calling for God's people to repent of their sin and preparing the way of the Lord. John announced Jesus' arrival and pointed people to Him. He identified Him as the Chosen of God Who would save His people from their sin. And John saw the heavens open and watched as the Spirit, in the form of a Dove, rested on Christ... as the Father proclaimed, "This is My beloved Son - hear Him, look to Him, believe on Him."
This man, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, was calling God's nation to turn from its wicked ways, repent of their sin, return to the Lord, and produce fruit that comes from a repentant heart. John taught a 'baptism of repentance', 'baptising' in water if there was evidence of a truly repentant heart. Being 'placed into' water... i.e. being 'baptised' in water, was to demonstrate a change of heart - a repentant heart, showing a change in behaviour. John's baptism of repentance was to illustrate an internal cleansing, resulting in a positive change in external behaviour.
The meaning of 'baptism' has changed over the years. Today when the word 'baptism' is used, most people imagine someone being placed in water. But 'being baptised' simply means 'being placed INTO' something, or being 'IDENTIFIED' with something - in John's case it was water. Water is a cleansing agent, and the action of being 'baptised' in water was to demonstrate a cleansed heart, a purified life, an inner change.
John's baptism was one of seven very different types of baptisms. Some used water and others were 'dry' baptisms! 'The baptism of Moses took place when Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry land. 'The baptism of Moses was a 'dry' baptism. Indeed, it was a baptism on two accounts. Firstly, the people were identified with Moses and secondly, they were identified with 'the Cloud' (i.e. the Lord Jesus).
As believers, we partake of the dry 'baptism of the Cross' at the moment of salvation. We are 'baptised' into Christ. We are positioned in Christ and become identified with His righteousness, just as He identified with our sinfulness. JESUS took upon Himself our sins at the Cross... so that by faith in Him we can 'die to sin' or 'give up' the sinful life and have it replaced with a righteous life - a life that identifies with Christ.
There is also a 'baptism of fire', which is connected with judgement... for God is a consuming Fire. Again, there is no water in sight with this baptism, and while unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne of God, and cast into the eternal lake of fire (or 'baptised' into it), believers also have 'baptism of fire' - but it is NOT a Pentecost experience as some teach. It's not a 'second baptism', received by the super-spiritual.
Pentecost was a unique, never-to-be-repeated, occasion at the birth of the Church. The baptism of fire for Christians happens at the Bema Seat of Christ, where believers' GOOD works will be rewarded with gold, silver, and precious stones, while their BAD, fleshly, carnal works, will be burned up in the fire of judgement and destroyed, so that the Christian will come forth as fine gold - refined in the fires of God's perfect righteousness.
In Matthew, John the Baptist makes reference to this 'fiery' baptism by saying, "I baptise you with water for repentance, but He Who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with FIRE - (the fires of judgement)", while this verse in Mark simply says, "I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit."
John gave his prophecy at the start of Christ's ministry, but moments before His ascension into heaven, Jesus informed his disciples that the baptism of the Spirit would happen a few days later. "John baptised with water," Jesus told them, "but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit... not many days from now." Indeed, on that first day of Pentecost, the believers who were all together in one place were not only baptised by the Spirit but were also filled with the Spirit and endowed with the spiritual gift of 'tongues'.
There are three, additional 'ceremonial' baptisms in the Bible as well as the four, 'real' baptisms mentioned above. John's baptism in water was a baptism of Repentance for Israel. It was a testimony of someone's faith in Israel's Messiah. However, when John baptised Jesus in the River Jordan, at the start of His earthly ministry, His baptism had nothing to do with repentance, for Jesus was the sinless Son of God. Christ's baptism by John was necessary so that the righteous requirement of the Law could be fulfilled. It was also a sign to John that the Lord Jesus was the holy Lamb of God for he had been told, "the One on Whom you see the Spirit descending and resting—He is the One who baptises with the Holy Spirit."
The last ceremonial baptism is a water baptism for Christians. It is the one in which believers engage as an outward sign of the inward change, because they trusted Christ's sacrifice for sin, and were born again of the Spirit Who baptised them into the body of Christ. Being baptised in water has nothing to do with spiritual rebirth, but is an outward proclamation of faith in Christ. It is an outward sign of what had taken place on the inside. It is to demonstrate a dying to the old sinful life, and a being raised into newness of life in Christ, as part of His new creation.
Being baptised with the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ is perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts in the Bible, but perhaps 1 Corinthians 12:13 offers the clearest description of this once-for-all, supernatural event, that takes place in the life of every Christian, the moment they place their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting, "For in the power of one Spirit, we have all been baptised into one Body - we have been placed INTO Christ's body - we have become a Member of Christ's Body, which is the Church - whether Jews or Greeks, whether bondmen or free, and have all been given to drink of one Spirit."
Dear Lord, thank You that You died for me and that I am saved by Your grace alone, through faith in Christ. Thank You that the moment I believed on Him, I was baptised into the Body of Christ, positioned in Him, and became a member of His mystical Body, the Church. Thank You for the opportunity to proclaim outwardly my spiritual birth and privileged position in Christ by going through the waters of baptism as an open declaration of my change of heart and my trust in Him. Thank You that my old sin nature is chained to the Cross and I have received newness of life. Keep me from fleshly pursuits and keep me pure in Your sight, so that others may see my life and glorify You. In Jesus' name, AMEN.