So far we’ve looked at Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit in John 14-16.
We have seen that the most common and most significant cause for the gap between our experience and the promises of the New Testament is a failure to understand, receive and walk in the life changing power of the Holy Spirit.
We saw in John 14 that God has sent His Holy Spirit
- To be with us and in us.
- To be an advocate, helper and comforter.
- To be with us forever.
That means you don’t have to live in defeat because you are not alone.
The Christian life described by the NT is possible for you because the Spirit dwells within you.
We saw in John 16 that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. That means you don’t have to. It’s not your job. It also means that to be drawn into the Spirit’s work in this world will mean facing the full reality of sin, righteousness and judgment in your own heart.
We saw in in John 14 that the Scriptural revelation of God is 3 persons coexisting in eternal relationship. That means that the source and center of existence is love.
It means that the fundamental meaning of your life is love.
It means that the Spirit’s work in you to bring conviction and call you to repentance and surrender is an invitation to share in the eternal love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The conviction of sin and the call to surrender is an invitation to dive into the deep sea of the love of God.
For the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
That phrase may not mean anything to you, but it is absolutely essential for the Christian life. It’s a concept that has caused a great deal of confusion and disagreement among Christians. By the grace of God, we will find some clarity.
Some form of the phrase baptize with the Holy Spirit is used 7 times in the New Testament. It’s in each of the 4 gospel accounts.
It’s reiterated by Jesus in Acts 1:4-5. It’s remembered by Peter in Acts 11:16.
It’s used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
The word baptize means to immerse, submerge or overwhelm.
It was used in classical Greek to describe a ship sinking into the depths of the sea, a diver who is submerged underwater or a drinker who had too many pints at the pub. (That’s the Message translation of the Greek) To be baptized is to be immersed, drenched or besotted.
The word had a religious sense in the Jewish community. John the Baptist baptized people in water as an act of repentance for sin. Water baptism continued into the Christian era through Jesus’ command to baptize believers.
The word has another sense which we are going to see in John 1 this morning. Let’s read John 1:26-34.
We are talking about the Holy Spirit and the great work of the Holy Spirit is to testify about Jesus.
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.
As the Holy Spirit works in your life He will show you Jesus as the Son of God who is greater, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
The great question this morning is – do you know Him?
Jesus is the Son of God.
“I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34)
Jesus was announced by the angel to Mary as the Son of God.
“And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.'”
The major thrust of the Jewish case against Jesus which they would use to drive his execution was this identification.
“7 The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.'”
In Jewish tradition, the Son of God is equated with the Christ.
“But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ 64 Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.'”
When John saw the Spirit descend on Jesus, he recognized a person who existed on an entirely different level.
“the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Luke 3:16)
To untie the strap of a sandal was a task performed only by non-Jewish slaves. Even the slave among the Jews was not asked to perform this task.
“Every service which a slave performs for his master shall a disciple do for his teacher except the loosing of his sandal-thong.” – Rabbinic saying
John uses this imagery to demonstrate that he is not merely a student under a rabbi in relation to Jesus, he’s not just a rabbi or master, he is in an entirely different category of superiority. His superiority transcends all human relationships.
You have to know this about John – to use an older phrase, John was not a respecter of persons. He was not impressed with wealth or titles or status. In fact he publicly rebuked the most important and powerful man in Israel – the King himself as a sinner. He was not a follower.
It’s interesting, isn’t it that John says I myself didn’t know Him? Wasn’t he the cousin of Jesus? Didn’t their mothers receive miraculous revelations about each other’s babies? It’s unclear what John meant. But we get the sense that John was not someone who had family attachments.
Many commentators emphasize the rare humility of John demonstrated in this statement. I believe they miss the point. You don’t read the gospels with an awareness of the living God and see humility. You see a great shadow looming over John. You turn to follow his wide eyes to see what marvel he is looking at.
It is not rare to stand in the presence of something categorically greater, something transcendentally powerful and say, this is greater than me. It’s an instantaneous effect.
Jesus was greater than any other person in the power of his teaching
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
Matthew 7:28-29 (NIV)
Jesus was greater than any other person in the power of his word
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
Mark 4:39 (NIV)
Jesus was greater than any other person in the power of his wisdom
“No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.”
Matthew 22:46 (NIV)
Jesus was greater than any other person in the power of his love
“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'”
Luke 23:33-34 (NIV)
It is worth repeating C.S. Lewis argument:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to …. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”
Do you know Jesus as the Son of God? Do you know him as one whose sandal you are not worthy to untie?
Jesus is the Lamb of God
John 1:29 – “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
In what sense is Jesus a lamb?
He is called the Lion of Judah and the lamb of God.
The lamb of God is a reference to the Old Testament sacrificial system practiced by the Jewish people.
This practice began with Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. God tested Abraham’s faith by commanding him to sacrifice the greatest treasure in his life, his son. Abraham demonstrated his faith that God could raise the dead by taking his son and a knife to make a sacrifice. God who never had any intention of asking Abraham to kill his son provided a lamb as a substitute sacrifice.
Later when the Jewish tabernacle and temple were built, people brought lambs to be sacrificed in order to be right with God.
The sacrifice of a lamb involved:
- Substitution (substitute is a person acting or serving in place of another)
- Atonement (reparation for an injury or offense)
- This came at the cost of blood. (without the shedding of blood)
This image frames the death of Jesus and is the only way to make sense of the crucifixion. Jesus willingly and quietly gave himself up to be crucified so that he could serve as a substitute in my place.
As a man he endured the temptations and the sorrows that of humanity, as God he lived a perfect and pure life. He was a spotless lamb.
It cost Him his blood and his life and the result was that through faith in Him my sins were atoned for.
That’s how he takes away the sins of the world.
There are several senses in which Jesus takes away the sins of the world:
He takes away the penalty of sin.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”
He takes away the stain of sin.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
It’s wonderful isn’t it? There’s more.
He takes away the record of our sin.
“having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
This too is wonderful, but we are just getting started.
He takes away the memory of our sin.
“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Love keeps no record of wrongs. Not only does he remove the penalty, the stain and the record of sin. He removes all memory. You will say to Him, God I am so sorry for what I did, and He will say, “I have no idea what you are talking about!”
No penalty, no stains, no record, no memory. It’s wonderful. But there’s more!
He takes away the accusation of sin.
“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
God may forget our sin, but others do not. Our memories may remain strong. Others may keep a record of our sin. The evil one who is the accuser of the brothers whispers accusations against us. The voice of Jesus rises over the rumble of accusation – Enough! It is finished! I paid for that sin! I took on that debt! It is paid! It is finished! I have taken the penalty, the record, the stain, the memory of this man’s sin. Who dares to stand against me!
Do you know this Jesus? There’s more!
He takes away the presence of sin.
“He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
God knows this is hard for us. The imagery is vivid. He throws our sin to the ground. He stomps on it like a cockroach. He puts it into a bag and carries it on a plane and throws it out into the middle of the ocean.
“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
There’s one more.
He takes away the wounds of sin.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
You know Jesus as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Do you know that you have sin that needs to taken away? Do you know Jesus as the blessed lamb of God who takes your sin away?
Jesus is He who baptizes with the Spirit.
John would cleanse bodies with water.
Jesus would cleanse people’s souls with fire.
The “baptism of the More Powerful One will not be a symbolic baptism of cleansing with water, but immersion into the power and person of God.” -J.R. Edwards
“Baptizing with the Spirit and baptizing with water is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. It’s the difference between a person and a painting, between a marriage and a ring, between a birth and a birth certificate, between immersion in water and immersion in God.” Piper
What did Jewish people in Jesus time understand by the words Holy Spirit?
There are 4 primary ways the people of the Old Testament experienced the Holy Spirit.
He was the imminent presence of God in the world.
He came upon certain people to give divine communication or prophecy.
He came upon certain people to give supernatural power for service or battle.
He was going to come with an outpouring of restoration in the last days.
When the Holy Spirit came upon a person or a group, it was a power encounter. It was obvious to those who witnessed what was happening. Jesus, John said will baptize you, he will immerse you in this Holy Spirit.
Two of the four gospel records add fire to the baptism Jesus would bring.
In what sense would Jesus baptize with fire? Matthew’s account of this moment in Matthew 3 includes a word about judgment. Jesus was coming with a winnowing fork in his hand, ready to separate the chaff to be consumed with fire.
In this sense, fire is judgment.
There is another sense in which fire is a mercy. In Isaiah 4:4, the prophet foretold a coming day when the people of God would be cleansed by a spirit of judgment and of burning.
Do you know your sin too well? Do you long for the lamb of God to take your sin away from you? For you the baptism of fire is a blessed cleansing.
But for those who cling to their sin, fire comes as a judgment. If you look at Jesus, if you see the indescribably gracious offer he extends to you to take away your sin and you turn your back on that – there is only judgment. And it is right.
The baptism Jesus brings will be fire or fire. The question is – which will you experience?
“The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Do you know Him?
Do you know Him as the Son of God? Do you know that you are not worthy to untie the straps of his sandals?
Do you know Him as the lamb of God? Have you given up your pride and your self-righteousness to trust in Him alone as a substitute for your sins? Have you experienced the wonderful mercy that takes away your sin?
Do you know Him as He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire?
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown