Question: Is it possible that water baptism based on faith in Christ includes the Holy Spirit [as mediating our addition to the body of believers OR as a consequence of addition to the body of believers wherein we partake of Christ BY the Holy Spirit]? that is, that water baptism according to faith in Christ IS Holy Spirit baptism [it is baptism with water AND with the Spirit]?
Your thought: The miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit served a purpose, but it was transient. God’s aim is our spiritual transformation in daily life and walk – led by the Spirit. Baptism is our uniting with the living Christ, the inauguration of that walking as we are led by the Spirit of Christ.
Water baptism—the pivotal moment
The water baptism is not just a ritual but the place, time, and occasion, in which two things happen or, i.e., they are made happen. The two things happen not only in the spiritual realm, that is, to the spirit of the person, but also in the physical, that is, in his or her mentality. The baptism is the pivotal moment of the person, around which he or she is transformed from the fleshly being to the spiritual being (1 Cor. 6:17). Our bodily being died through baptism united with Jesus’ death, and we are born of the spirit in the baptism united with the resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 6:4; 8:10; John 3:5; 6:63a).
After the moment, we no longer are to live a bodily life as if we are satisfying our physical needs and desires, but a spiritual life following Jesus’ teachings and examples by the Spirit, dwelling in us—the teachings and examples He manifested from His birth to His death (literally until He breathed His last breath). As He was in the human body, He never prioritized His bodily life, but lived fully to fulfill God’s will, having been anointed by and being full of the Spirit, which is the spiritual life (e.g., John 4:34). For this reason also, Jesus’ death must be seen as an example of the godly living which perfected His life in the body (Heb. 2:9-10), led by the Holy Spirit to show that the body is no better than the spirit for life, by giving up for God’s will His body even with the great pains and agonies on the cross. We as His followers have to have the same attitude to life even unto death (cf. Rom. 6:6).
This “rebirth” (John 3:5), “regeneration and renewal” (Tit. 3:5) of the person happens in the water baptism. Water baptism is a physical manifestation of the reality that happens in the occasion which is the spiritual transformation. Why? Because God said so—it is the law of God. How? It is not fully known to us humans but sufficient revelation was made for us to be able to believe it is true. Therefore, baptism is the pivotal moment of the person’s life.
Water baptism—the initiative
As one is baptized in the water, believing and repenting, that is, obeying the gospel, he or she initiates the transformation, regeneration, rebirth, and renewal. A strong, mild, or weak, whatever calvinistic idea would say that the initiative is fully of God’s. The Bible doesn’t teach thus, I believe. It is based on the false Augustinian theology that humans, or at least sinners, don’t have free will and salvation is not a matter of choice but only of elect or predestination of God.
It is undeniably true that the Holy Spirit, that is, God Himself, is and has the power and authority to give the person the regeneration and renewal (Tit. 3:4-5; John 6:63). It is completely God’s work and it belongs to the spiritual realm. However, God does not perform His salvific work for the person, unless the person hopes for salvation sufficiently to subject him or herself to God’s will. What the person has to do in this moment belongs to his or her own volitional mind which is a part of the physical realm; it is a mental process of choice. We humans do our part, mentally choosing and willing, and, based on our initiative, God does the real and the most of the thing, the transformation from fleshliness to spirituality. Water baptism is our mental decision, expressed by bodily immersion, and our eager “appeal and pledge to God” for salvation (1 Pet. 3:21). This mental initiative of ours is the key to the spiritual work of God. God, only as He sees that we use the key as the initiative, at the very moment works for us through the Holy Spirit to give us the new life (Ezek. 36:26). It is like, a surgeon, who has a new heart in hands to plant in the dying patient through the surgery, cannot start the surgery without the affirmative consent of the patient. Water baptism is the indispensable initiative for the conversion.
Yet, it is God who originally initiated the process of the conversion. He created humans and planned their salvation. He preached the gospel for salvation sending even His Son. But this was for all and in general; He didn’t do that for only certain elect people. Each and every individual has their key in his or her hands to his or her own salvation. Unless he or she uses his or her key, God is waiting for him or her to use the key, still sending His angels to preach the gospel to his or her ears. God is not coercive to any person at any rate even for the best benefit of the person. Coerciveness is not in God’s glossary. He has no partiality; but He is perfectly just in His love.
Water baptism—the culmination
Immersion in the baptism is the culmination of believing and penitent heart so as to meet the condition for the initiation. The immersion is the expression of the earnest hope to be saved, by dying to his or her old self, the bodily being, according to the gospel of Jesus. Believing and repentance are not culminated to initiate the Holy Spirit to give him or her the new life in the spirit until he or she reaches the degree of hoping to be dead to his or her old self and to sin, and to be alive again of the Holy Spirit. The hope as the initiative saves him or her (Rom. 8:24).
Some brothers say that one is saved already by his or her faith and repentance and the baptism is merely a ritual for the saved person. However, if one believes and repents but rejects or hesitates to be immersed in baptism, his or her initiative is not culminated and it is not good enough to initiate the work of the Holy Spirit in him or her. This is the reason why these scriptures say what they say. One, Mark 16:16 and 1 Pet. 3:21 say baptism is indispensable for salvation. The other, Rom. 6:1-11 is like saying baptism is included in faith that gives one justification by faith (esp. 6:7). It is because water baptism is partly an act of faith and repentance, that is, the culmination of faith and repentance to initiate the work of the Holy Spirit for conversion.
At the initiative, as faith and repentance were culminated in the baptism, God works His part for the person to be saved. He raises the person, born of the spirit and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, by the same power with which He raised Jesus from the dead. The person has the new life, the new spirit. He or she is no longer a bodily being, that is natural person, but a spiritual person (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14-15). The natural bodily being born of the flesh from the womb of his or her mother is dead because of sin, and only the spiritual person who is born of spirit through the word of God is alive and the person is one spirit with the Lord (John 3:6; 1 Cor. 6:17).
Some brothers say that the Holy Spirit baptism happens not necessarily in the water baptism. They base their idea on, for example, Acts 8:14-18 and 10:44-48. Here, I think, the sign of the Holy Spirit is to be distinguished from the working of the Holy Spirit for regeneration of life. The sign is for a particular purpose. It served as God’s evidence that salvation was given to the Samaritans, in the former case, and Gentiles, the latter (Heb. 2:4). However, in both cases and all other Christians too, the working of the Holy Spirit to regenerate the new life in the person happens in the water baptism. This is why Paul said in 1 Cor. 12:13, “In One Spirit we were all baptized into one body” regardless of whether or not some of them have received a visible sign or gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, a true water baptism never fails to accompany the Holy Spirit baptism.
Therefore, if I answer to your question, whether it is possible to receive the Holy Spirit in the water baptism, YES. Furthermore, it is not just possible but it really happens, as far as the baptism is a true one, with all conditions for the initiative met. The water baptism is the moment and occasion of the person’s rebirth and regeneration; it is not just a symbol or a ritual. That is what God’s word says and, that is, it is God’s law. Therefore, we can be assured, who are baptized in truth and in spirit, that we received the Holy Spirit just as God promised to give to those who believe in Jesus (John 7:39) and as Jesus received God’s promise (Acts 1:33) and gave the promise to the disciples first on the Day of the Pentecost and since then made the Holy Spirit baptism available to those who obey the gospel (Acts 5:32; cf. 19:1-5). For this reason, in this dispensation the water baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit baptism (cf. Acts 19:1-6).
Also I agree to your thought that baptism is the union with the living Christ and inauguration of the walking with Him led by the spirit. It is, I think, another expression of the regeneration, rebirth and renewal of the spirit through the Holy Spirit happened in the water baptism.
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