Mat_20:23: And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.
I hate being bogged down in theology, and the subject of baptism is one sure quicksand in that respect. But, despite the clear risks, I want to attempt to address something about this subject here.
Did you ever notice that during His earthly ministry Jesus never baptized anyone in water? The Bible does say in John 3:22 that “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized”; but in the very following chapter we read: “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)” John 4:1-2.
The reason Jesus personally did not baptize with water was because He had not come to baptize people with that baptism. He had another baptism with which He would baptize His followers. In Mat_3:11 we see John the Baptist contrasting his (water) baptism with the baptism that Jesus would administer: “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:”
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 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.”
Both Paul and John the Baptist caught the revelation of what Jesus would be coming to accomplish in men and women’s hearts. The difference, though, was that John, being of the older order, saw this revelation from afar, as it were – like the prophets of old. When he was in prison, he would begin doubting what he has seen of Jesus, for he had seen Him more in the natural than in the spirit. Paul, on the other hand, not only received a clearer and fuller spiritual revelation of who Jesus was and the work He was to accomplish, but he fully lived and experienced that revelation in the spirit. It consumed his entire being. The outcome of it is that today we are partakers of the fruits of Paul’s experiences through the gospel he received and lived. His gospel and life have enriched all believers’ lives. This was the same gospel that the Early Apostles and the Early Church lived.
Long before John the Baptist would talk of the Holy Spirit and fire, God had spoken these same words through Isaiah. Isaiah 43:2 says “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
We see that even under the Old Testament God had never promised His people that they would live a life free of trouble. He promised to baptize them.
John and James were two of Jesus’ closest disciples, yet He could tell them these same words. I doubt that we can expect anything less.
What is the fire the Bible is talking about? The reality of the gospel that Paul preached to the Corinthians is brought to our lives through the many trials and tests that we are made to go through daily. Through these we experience first-hand the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as He moulds us into the image of Christ and enables us to live a holy and righteous life in “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4). When we live the revelation that Jesus brought and that Paul elucidates in his epistles, that is our true baptism.
We will be tempted and tried in many ways. Many of us, unaware of the need for this baptism, constantly cry out to God to set us free from these trials and temptations. But that is exactly the baptism that God desires to have us pass through: the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire. We cannot expect, for example, to learn how to forgive if we are not hurt or wounded on the inside. We fear having our feelings hurt and yet that is the very area where God wants to touch our lives so that He may set us free from our selfish nature.
If there is an area in our lives where we are struggling in the flesh, we should stop everything and cry out to God to set us free. He will give us His Holy Spirit who will enable us to stand our ground as we are being put through the fire. That fire will purify us as we by faith anticipate the outcome, which is becoming worthy (golden) vessels to carry the Life of God, like the Apostles did.