ONE BAPTISM: Acts 1:1-11 details Christ's promise of the Holy Spirit and Baptism by it before He ascended bodily into heaven:
|1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." -- Acts 1:1-11 (NKJV)|
|18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (NKJV)|
From these passages, we clearly see that there are TWO Baptisms - one of the Holy Spirit and another by water. These have been the practice of the Church from its earliest days. I am a Baptist minister, but first and foremost, I am a minister of the Gospel of Christ. As a Baptist, I hold to the traditions of "Believer's Baptism" and "Baptism by Immersion", yet over the years, I have witnessed such discord among my brothers and sisters in Christ, the sons and daughters of the One Almighty God, and by extension churches and denominations, that I had to prayerfully evaluate my own position. In essence, all believers are Baptized by the Holy Spirit. It is an act not of man but of God. It manifests itself in many different ways, some rather visibly accompanied by tongues and other manifestations of the Spirit, some quietly by a sense of overwhelming peace and joy, some by deep conviction of sin and contrition, some in an instant, and some over time. It is not for us to judge how God will choose how the Holy Spirit will work from individual to individual. Like the Gifts of the Spirit, they are entirely up to the wise, good, and perfect Will of God, yet they are also like the Fruits of the Spirit which is not denied to any who call upon the lord. In my own ministry, I have witnessed to all the different ways that the Holy Spirit has worked and I stand amazed at His diversity.
At this point, I will say something that is quite controversial and I pray that you will bear with me. I did not grow up in a Christian home in North America, rather, I grew up in the East and my family were a blend of Buddhists and ancestral (even pagan) worshipers. As such, I have witnessed much that most North Americans have not. I have seen mediums and soothsayers heal and prophesy but I have also noticed that most of these do not live righteously. When my grandfather was stricken with sickness, my family paid for mediums and healers to come. These men and women were greedy, callous, fawning, and disingenuous. One particularly powerful medium has ties with the Chinese underworld of Triads and most, like this man, will invoke curses and death if the price is right or if they are offended. Their incantations were bizarre and frightening, some convulsed and gestured, shaking and prancing in trances and throes of ecstasy. Even though I was not Christian at that time, I recognized an unwholesome power at work. Yet, their exercise and demonstration of power cannot be denied and as such many believe on them. Ever since I became a follower of Christ, my background had given me a deeper appreciation of what Paul means when he says in Ephesians 6:11-13:
|11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (NKJV)|
|1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. -- 1 John 4:1-3 (NKJV)|
|37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. -- Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV)|
Yet I digress. The point is that all believers are Baptized by the Holy Spirit regardless of the form in which that Baptism takes place. It is what unites us. Regarding Baptism by water, this is quite different and different denominations practice this differently. While I hold to the traditions of "Believer's Baptism" and "Baptism by Immersion" others in good conscience do not. In the end, I have to recognize that those, like myself, that Baptism by water is a symbolic expression ... "an outward confession of an inward reality" our quarrel ultimately is with the symbol not the heart. In the end, does God not see into the hearts of men and women more than any outward act? Ultimately, all believing Christians adhere to both Baptism of the Spirit and Baptism by water regardless of tradition or liturgy.
ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL: This last element of the Seven Bonds of Christian Unity is at the foundation of all of them. Regardless of denominational leanings, regardless of tradition or liturgy, regardless of doctrinal positions, ALL proclaim allegiance with the same God. The God of Israel, of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David. The is the God of the judges and the prophets. He is the God to whom Jesus points and He is the same God of the Apostles and the early Church. Many have chosen to adopt separation, and by extension disunity based on many things but few have chosen unity on this one thing!
So there you have it. The Essentials that demand Unity. The seven bonds that are non negotiable and inviolate. My brothers and sisters in Christ we are in the midst of a titanic struggle and while I do not know when the Lord will return, I do know that it is near. Look around us, read the headlines in the news and the "trending articles" on the Internet. Can we afford disunity in times like this? Can we continue to sow discord and quarrel among ourselves? I for one think not. I choose by faith to believe that God in His sovereign power and infinite wisdom have permitted and even blessed every denomination who hold to these Essentials. So, I in humility plead unity. The harvest is plentiful and the workers few let us not allow differences and diversity among the workers deter us from working together for the Cause of Christ and the Kingdom of God!
IN NON-ESSENTIALS, LIBERTY: (continued in Part 4 )