R. KENT HUGHES
The great classic text that celebrates and announces the believer’s baptism into Christ is 1 Corinthians 12:13: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” That speaks of the Spirit’s initiating us into the body of Christ, and that happened to me when I was just twelve years old. I’d never heard of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but I was indeed baptized by the Holy Spirit. And now as the years have gone by, what was an objective fact has become a subjective reality in my life.
When I was baptized by the Spirit, I was regenerated, born again. I was born of the Spirit, John 3 says. What a beautiful picture. The metaphor of being born again describes a divine obstetrics because I was taken out of darkness and I was brought into light, and I began to see things.
At the same time I was regenerated, I was indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Jesus says in John 14 that the Spirit “will live with you” and “will be in you.” I lost my father when I was a little boy and had a sense of being alone in this world. When I became indwelt, a sense of paternity overtook my soul, of being adopted. I didn’t know that I’d been tagged by the Holy Spirit or sealed by the Holy Spirit. As it says in Ephesians 1:13–14: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” That further gave me a sense of protection and reality, that I was tagged for eternity by the Holy Spirit when I was baptized by the Spirit.
When I was baptized in the Spirit, I was also prayed for. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought.” The Holy Spirit prays with groanings that cannot be uttered because he knows our hearts (Rom. 8:26).
And then, at the same time, I was enlightened. I can remember as a boy at a camp going back to my cabin, getting out my Bible, underlining in it, and having the Word come alive to me, as it has continued to come alive in my life. Now when John the Baptist pointedly said, “I baptize you with water, but [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,” he was talking about the superiority of Jesus’s baptism. Water can wash only the outside, but the Spirit and fire regenerate and cleanse the inside. And so that is the great abiding reality and joy of being baptized with the Spirit and fire. The Holy Spirit is making all things new and constantly conforming us to the image of Christ.