I ask this question as I think about the thief on the cross. How many baptisms are we supposed to endure?
That came off rather pessimistically and I have experienced far too much religious tradition, but it’s a rhetorical question anyway and I am not expecting an answer. Undoubtedly, we will likely find out.
This next section in Matthew’s gospel is entitled
“The Baptism of Jesus.”
John, the Baptizer, had effectively told the religious Jews that the Messiah was here and that He would clean house, something that none of them would like.
“I indeed am baptizing you in water on a profession of repentance; but He who is coming after me is mightier than I: His sandals I am not worthy to carry for a moment; He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. His winnowing-shovel is in His hand, and He will make a thorough clearance of His threshing-floor, gathering His wheat into the storehouse, but burning up the chaff in unquenchable fire.”
(Matthew 3:11-12 Weymouth)
John said that his baptisms, in water, were for the profession of repentance, but He (Jesus), who is coming after me, will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. Those are two completely different baptisms, and it appears that John’s method would be set aside once Jesus took over, and He did.
“Just at that time Jesus, coming from Galilee to the Jordan, presents Himself to John to be baptized by him.”
(Matthew 3:13 Weymouth)
“ Just at that time.” What time was that?
At the time that John was there (conveniently placed there by God because God had arranged an appointment), either at the river Jordan or another water source within the Jordan Valley. Considering that Jesus had been up by Galilee, He could have been as much as 70 miles north. With no good way of communicating or setting up this appointment, Jesus begins walking south at a precise time in order to have John baptize Him.
Notice that the verse tells us that Jesus presented Himself to John to be immersed by him.
Having looked intently, trying to find the commandment that instructs someone to baptize people, and not finding it, it occurs to me that there may have been additional reasons on Jesus’ mind, such as having John witness the Holy Spirit coming upon Him, or for John to acknowledge Him and pronounce that there should be a public acceptance of Jesus’ ministry.
This may help you to understand where I am coming from.
This makes me think of church, where someone is publicly ordained (Do you know what that word ordained means in religious circles? The connotations are decreed, appointed, consecrated, and dedicated – before you, the audience.) The psychological effect on the audience is to give the person being ordained a obligated and automatic level of acceptance, something that may not happen to the “stranger, even though they have been part of the church for a while. It took me a long time to figure out my calling. You might ask why I would even tell you that, well, there is a tremendous amount of manipulation involved with organized religion, as the church leadership will try to convince you to be a missionary in Zambia or a street evangelist on skid row in Los Angeles, Ca. (I can tell you that none of that appealed to me.)
As a young man, a few years before I got married for the first time, I had a very vivid dream / vision. I say it that way because of how real it seemed. Jesus stood at the end of my bed (although I could not see His face) and told me, with precision, my entire life. When He was finished, I thought, I need to write this down. I did not, because I was thinking while He was talking that I would remember every word and I could write it down later; I merely went back to sleep (I had been asleep, but in the dream, I was wide awake and thinking). When I awoke that morning, I knew Jesus had been there, but all I could remember was being filled with great joy at how the account ended. Having lived my life, I can tell you it has been far from joyous. I suppose that means that there is an unending joy yet to come.
Sometime later, I was doing some Bible reading and came across this bit of information, Moses had a sister.
Why is that important?
Because his mother put him in a thatched basket and set him in the river, hoping that someone kind would find this new male baby alive and provide for his well-being. That person was Pharaoh’s daughter. The sister of Moses, quite possibly Miriam, watched until the baby was pulled from the water and then offered Pharaoh’s daughter a “woman” that could nurse the baby. Pharaoh’s daughter agreed with the understanding that she would come and collect the baby back to herself once he was weaned.
(If you feel that you must challenge me on what I have just said, then I suggest that go back and reread Exodus chapter two. The Amplified Bible adds the name Miriam in italics as a proper name is merely a logical assumption.)
There is some argument about how long this weaning period lasted, as some women continue to breastfeed their children well beyond a couple of years.
Why are we even talking about this?
Because forty years later, we are told that Moses, who had been educated in Pharaoh’s courts, suddenly seems to realize that he has a non-Egyptian ancestry (although, at this point, they are known as the Hebrews.) No, the Bible does not give us all that detail; instead, the narrative moves Moses from the basket in the water to a life of royalty, privilege, education, and celebrity to the point where he kills an Egyptian on behalf of a Hebrew, one of his kinfolk.
“Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”
(Exodus 2:11-12 NASB)
The book of Acts tells us that Moses, at age forty, flees for his life and spends 40 years in the wilderness working as a shepherd with Jethro and living with Zipporah, his wife.
“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “Why have you come back so soon today?” So they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.” He said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses.”
(Exodus 2:16-21 NASB)
What eventually happens is that Moses is told by God that all those who wanted him dead for the murder of the Egyptian are now dead.
At this point Moses is now 80 and there is NO mention of children or of Miriam.
“Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. “So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me,’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”‘” Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.”
(Exodus 4:22-25 NASB)
If this is all we get (“Now it came about at the night’s resting place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death”) as an explanation for why Zipporah cut off the foreskin, there is a severe lack of communication. By the way, I always thought Moses cut off his child’s foreskin. But, unfortunately, it seems Zipporah went on a verbal rampage, at the least, after she circumcised Gershom, the first son, who may have been a young man by this time.
After this incident, we NEVER see Zipporah again.
Why is that?
I have struggled to understand the answer to that question, but it is evident that women had no rights. Facing the possibility that Moses took action against her changes the imagery that Cecil B. DeMille helped to create when he made the movie The Ten Commandments.
What we do see down the road is Jethro, Zipporah’s father, coming to give Moses some wisdom about managing his time and all the demands being placed upon him.
Moses demands that the new Pharaoh let God’s people go. Once the people gained their freedom from Egypt, Moses, under God’s mandate, ruled God’s people for 40 more years. In a relatively short time after their liberation from Egypt, Miriam reappears and does so as a prophetess.
Exodus 15:20 “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.”
Who pronounced her a prophetess, I don’t know. But watch this mutiny that suddenly ensues.
“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the LORD heard it.” (Numbers 12:1-2 NASB)
I don’t know if this played a role in the conversation, but I have been told that the Cushites were very dark-skinned. I do not suggest that you allow your racism to run rampant here or anywhere else, as God looks upon the heart, and He can also see your heart. What might have played a role is that Moses already had a wife.
God had a response for Aaron and Miriam when they started bad-mouthing Moses.
Numbers 12:4-15 NASB
(4) Suddenly, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out.
(There will be several of these short thought insertions.) The fact that they were inside the tent tends to mean that this was a private shouting match.
(5) Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward,
Just pointing out that they had eventually come forward demonstrates a hesitancy on the part of Aaron and Miriam, perhaps to own their “sin.”
(6) He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream.
Ah, and now we are back to the dream I had. If that dream made me a prophet, what am I supposed to do with this calling?
I am a tremendous fan of Biblical men like the prophets Samuel (who hacked up King Agag) and Elijah (who boldly called down fire from heaven on multiple occasions. Of course, things like this make for great action movies, but causing a widow’s food supply to never end, or bringing a woman’s son back to life, an act which restored her financial security and provided for her future care in an age where social security did not exist; those are positive life-changing events and also done at the hands of prophets.
(7,8) “Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?”
Many will tell you that God is not bringing justice to evil people during this time of grace. The question you have to ask yourself is, does God change? The answer is no, but He has, as in the case of Jonah’s declared judgment against Nineveh, that God asked him to deliver; God relented (or postponed) in carrying out that announced judgment. Jonah whined about God’s decision and never got to see how that worked out for Nineveh, and we may not either when it comes to dealing with the disgusting swamp of a government we have, both locally and nationally. Oh, and by the way, God frequently uses people (sometimes radically insane people) to carry out his judgment. Some of us can see this as handing people over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh to preserve their souls. Read 1 Corinthians 5:5 to know how the Apostle Paul handled this.
(9,10) So the anger of the LORD burned against them and He departed. But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous.
This shows the immediacy with which it attached to her. It is obvious to me that God was angry at both of them, but only Miriam got the leprocy on her. I honestly don’t understand that.
(11,12) Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned. “Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb!”
(13) Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!”
(14, 15) But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.” So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.
How does any of this relate to baptism?
I do not see a necessity for anyone to get water baptized, and having a baby sprinkled does nothing except give you some internal comfort, which buys you nothing. If you, as an adult, wanted to demonstrate the serious nature of your commitment to Christ, perhaps getting baptized is the thing for you to do, but I must tell you that I know several people who shed tears and got water baptized and then lived for the devil. Obviously, this is not the way with everyone.
Then which baptism is the one that we, as believers, should be pursuing?
The baptism that Jesus encouraged, the baptism in the Holy Spirit with fire. It seems odd to use the word encouraged as what He said came across more like a command. In Luke 24, some of the disciples, unnamed except for one we are not familiar with and a disciple named Cleopas, had been walking on the road to Emmaus when Jesus appeared to them and walked with them. During this walk, Jesus directed them to gather in Jerusalem and stay put until the Holy Spirit and the fire from God came upon them.
“And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But remain in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:49 BSB)
Clothed is intriguing as very few translation dictionaries direct you to the Greek word enduō. The NASEC and Mounce’s dictionaries are the only resources I have that address the word clothed.
Does that make clothed an improper choice?
Hardly, as the word enduō give us the idea of being “clothed with (in the sense of sinking into a garment.).” The King James Version expresses it this way “but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” It’s the same Greek word, but suddenly the resources are many. One I like to use is the Word Study Dictionary; it conveys this definition “To put on as a garment, to cause to get into a garment, to clothe, dress in, to be clothed; to clothe oneself.”
At Jesus’ command the disciples (now equaling about 120) began gathering in Jerusalem and in the upper room.
“And having met with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father which you heard from Me. For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
(Acts 1:4-5 MKJV)
Were they waiting for the infilling of the Holy Spirit or for Jesus to leave and the Holy Spirit to come?
I seriously doubt they understood what was happening, but having lost Jesus once they did not want to lose Him again. The wisest thing they could do was to follow His instructions.
What were they waiting for?
Power from on high.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Fire, but what did mean.
“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” Acts 2:3
The Holy Spirit was not a foreign subject to the disciples, but thanks to King David, it was an accepted and integral part of their lives that they did not think about. For the disciples, it was wisdom.
Jesus tried to explain that the Holy Spirit was no less a part of God than He was.
He told them that Holy Spirit would comfort them in ways that I still don’t fully understand.
And the Holy Spirit would teach them, lead and guide them into all truth.
This speaks to me about all the voices (preachers, pastors, evangelists, Bible teachers, and internet “personalities” that all think you have to listen to them). To be honest, listening to all these talking heads can get your head to spinning. I have 55 Bibles, and about 40 commentaries on my computer; some are fairly solid resources and some are just bizarre. I can use information from a variety to convey what needs to be said, but it is the Holy Spirit that is guiding what I write to you, not the collection of talking heads that created the translation or transliteration of the Bible you are looking at. All of them have issues, so don’t let some bully tell you that you can only use the King James version.
While we are on this earth, and especially in these last moments that we have on earth, you have to learn to trust and follow the Holy Spirit.
Jesus led by example; in that regard, they saw the Holy Spirit in action daily.
Jesus knew things about people and situations, and that is one of the ways that the Holy Spirit works.
If you watch the series The Chosen, watch the faces of the disciples as they try to figure out how He knew certain pieces of information, especially when no one said anything about what was coming next.
I tried to share this with my wife and she asked me a question, What is the fire?
If it was something that would painfully burn us to ashes, well then, I don’t think I want that at all. Thankfully, we saw that the fire was LIKE cloven tongues of fire. If it is my tongue on fire, then praying in the Holy Spirit helps to define this fire for me.
Example: One Sunday morning, in the little church, the worship music was awesome. I judge awesome based upon how it moves my spirit into spiritual warfare mode. This particular week, the pastor that I could not stand to be around chose to sit on the front row, directly in front of me. I believe that he values the Holy Spirit and he had joined in dancing before the Lord on occasions. It seems like the song had the words “let it rain, open the windows of heaven.” I just poured my spirit out before the Lord and began praying down the rains of warfare as I prayed in tongues. I could not tell you what I was praying about but I know this, God was splitting the heavens on my behalf. That pastor turned around and stared at me for several seconds. I was not in the mood and I kept it up for the length of the song.
That morning was fire for me.