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Hebrews Chapters 8-10: "We Have Been Sanctified" Through the Better Sacrifice, Part 3.5

by Karl Kemp  
3/31/2015 / Bible Studies

I'm adding this section, "In the Typical New Testament Pattern, When Does the Spirit Come Bringing the New Birth and Spiritual Resurrection in Relation to Water Baptism," to my paper on Hebrews chapters 8-10; it becomes Part 3.5 of this paper. We discussed water baptism and receiving the Spirit starting in Part 2 and halfway through Part 3 of this paper (to the end of the lengthy discussion of Titus 3:5-7).

Some say the Spirit of life comes, bringing the new birth (and other things), in water baptism. That is, we die with Christ and are buried with Him when we are immersed in the water, and we become born-again Christians, who are raised up (resurrected) spiritually in being raised up out of the water. (I'll limit this discussion to believer's baptism by immersion.) I said that I agree with Dunn that the New Testament teaches that we die to the old man and are buried with Christ in baptism, but that it does not teach that the Spirit of life comes and we are born again (raised spiritually) by the Spirit in water baptism.

It lines up better with the New Testament (with a rather consistent pattern) to say water baptism is preparatory for receiving the Spirit and that the Spirit comes after (typically right after) water baptism. Praying to receive the Spirit right after being baptized would be appropriate (the person doing the baptizing would be praying, so too the person being baptized, along with those witnessing the baptism); so too the laying on of hands (cf., e.g., Acts 8:14-17).

Keep in mind that I have shown that water baptism is the most appropriate occasion (according to the New Testament) to complete the transactions of washing away our sins and being forgiven, becoming united with Christ, dying with Him and being buried with Him. And we have discussed that before becoming Christians we must hear the gospel and understand it (at least we need to understand the basics of the gospel); we must repent; and we must submit in faith to God, His Son, and His gospel. We must also understand that the Holy Spirit is active in His drawing, convicting, revealing, teaching, etc. work before we receive and are born again by the Spirit. The things I have mentioned in this paragraph provide a solid preparation for receiving the all-important Spirit of life, truth, righteousness, holiness, etc.

Large numbers of Christians agree that we are not born again through the Spirit's coming in water baptism. For one thing, Calvinists (and those who agree with them on this point) believe that we are born again (regenerated) before we have faith in Christ and before we are baptized. (They believe we cannot have faith until after we are regenerated by the Spirit; they speak of God's giving us faith.) So they cannot believe that the Spirit brings the new birth in water baptism, since we have already been regenerated before we are baptized.

So too for the very large number of Christians who practice what I call the "Baptist view" of water baptism, that we must be born again before we are baptized. Those Christians cannot believe that the Spirit brings the new birth in water baptism, since we have already been born again. Most of the Christians I have fellowshipped with have followed the Baptist view of water baptism, and that was my experience too. I believe it has been demonstrated that the Baptist view will work, and it fits what happened in Acts 10 when God sent the apostle Peter to Cornelius and his household: They were born again by receiving the life-giving Spirit before they were baptized. I'll comment further on Acts 10 as we continue.

The Baptist view will work, and the view that the Spirit comes with water baptism can work too (if the Spirit can come before water baptism, He can undoubtedly come at the time of water baptism), BUT WE SHOULD BE INTERESTED IN LEARNING THE BALANCED TRUTH OF WHAT THE NEW TESTAMENT SAYS ABOUT WATER BAPTISM (and in prayerfully considering if God would have us modify what we have been doing in any way). I am not interested in looking for new ideas or spending much time on topics that are not important. Water baptism is important, and in my teaching on this topic for the past 35-40 years I have been trying to present the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches. I believe (as we have been discussing) that in the typical New Testament pattern, the Spirit comes to believers (which includes the new birth, the power to live in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, and the distribution of the charismatic gifts [these things are all available to us, whether we appropriate them, or not]) after, but not long after, being baptized in water.

We are born again and raised spiritually when the Spirit of life comes to dwell in us. Does the Spirit come while we are under the water so that we emerge from the water born again? I don't know of any passages in the New Testament that speak of the Spirit coming in our being baptized (immersed). It would be OK to say the coming of the Spirit is typically associated with water baptism, but not that the Spirit of life comes to dwell within us in some automatic way when we are immersed in water. If everything else is right (hearing and understanding the gospel, repenting, submitting in faith to God, His Son, and the gospel, and being baptized in water) water baptism is preparatory for the coming of the Spirit in the typical New Testament pattern. As I have mentioned, the New Testament includes being forgiven (Acts 2:38, 39; 22:16); becoming united with Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27); and dying with Him (Rom. 6:3, 4) and being buried with Him (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) in water baptism.

When I teach on these things I always emphasize that I am not saying that we must follow the typical pattern to be saved. For one thing, God has been very generous with His people and has not been rejecting believers over the details of water baptism, including believers associated with the Salvation Army who don't practice water baptism at all. However, I believe I am obligated before God to make it a top priority to teach the balanced truth of what God's Word teaches. And all of us (God's people) must make it a top priority to seek God for what He would have us to do.

One of the primary things I am always trying to do (I believe this is a primary assignment and gift that God has given me) is to do everything I can do to accurately interpret each passage of the Bible in the way it was intended by the writers who were chosen and anointed by God to give us the Bible. (Sometimes when they were speaking the exact words that God gave them, or reporting what they saw in visions, for example, God's spokesmen didn't understand what they were writing/saying.) I don't want to stir up controversy, but to accurately teach the Bible, to please God, and to be a blessing to the Body of Christ.

We Will Briefly Consider All Of The Passages In The New Testament That Refer To Water Baptism In A Way That Is Relevant To The Topic Of When The Spirit Comes (bringing spiritual life for one thing) In Relation To Baptism. (If I missed any passages it was not intentional.)

Receiving the Spirit right after water baptism fits the pattern of Jesus. The Spirit came to Him a short while after He was baptized, while He was praying, not in His coming up out of the water after being immersed by John the Baptist. (Jesus didn't need to be born again, but He did need to receive the Spirit to become the Anointed One, the Messiah [Hebrew], the Christ [Greek].) Luke 3:21 (I always quote from the NASB unless I mention otherwise) says, "Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, 'You are my beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.' " Glory to God the Son, the Lamb of God, our Savior!

Sometimes the New Testament speaks of the Spirit coming right after water baptism with the laying on of hands. See ACTS 8:5-17. In that case, which was special in that those believers were Samaritans, not Jews, there was a delay of a few days after they were baptized so that the apostles Peter and John could be involved in praying for them and laying hands on them "that they might receive the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:15). In ACTS 19:5, 6 the apostle Paul baptized those who had now heard and submitted to the gospel he had just proclaimed to them, and then he laid his hands on them (he undoubtedly prayed too) and the Holy Spirit came upon them (and they were speaking with tongues and prophesying). ACTS 2:38, 39 perfectly fit the pattern that the promised Spirit comes after water baptism. The apostle Peter mentioned repenting and being baptized in water; then he said "and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit [which includes the new birth]. For the promise [of the Spirit, which is a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about] is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God [God the Father (cf., e.g., Acts 3:19, 20, 22; 4:23-31)] will call to Himself." ACTS 2:41 mentions that on that day, the Day of Pentecost, about three thousand people received the word that Peter proclaimed and were baptized and added to the Body of Christ. It doesn't mention that they prayed or that hands were laid on those believers or that they received the Spirit, but they surely received the Spirit and undoubtedly with prayer and quite possibly with the laying on of hands right after they were baptized. It doesn't mention that they spoke with tongues or prophesied, but many of them, if not all of them, probably did.

In JOHN 3:5 Jesus said that we must be "born of water and the Spirit," which fits the pattern of being baptized in water (a baptism that must include repenting and submitting in faith to God, His Son, and His Word), then receiving the Spirit. The life-giving, sanctifying, gift-dispensing Spirit could not come until Jesus had been crucified, resurrected, ascended, and received and poured forth the promised Spirit, starting on the Day of Pentecost (cf., e.g., John 7:37-39; Acts 2:33).

ACTS 10 was different in that the Spirit fell on the believers (and they were speaking with tongues) before they were baptized, but that was a very special case, dealing with the first Gentiles being saved. It does, however, demonstrate that the Spirit can come bringing the new birth, etc. before believers are baptized in water. (The Samaritans [Acts 8] were not accepted by the Jews, but they were much closer to the Jews, including circumcision, than Cornelius and his household.) If God had not demonstrated His acceptance of those Gentiles who had now become believers by pouring out His Spirit on them, as on the Day of Pentecost, it would have been very difficult for Peter and the other Jews to accept those Gentiles as being accepted by God (without being circumcised, etc.) and to baptize them. Acts 11:1-19 show that Peter had to justify what he had done before the Jewish Christians when he went up to Jerusalem, and many Jewish Christians continued to reject Gentile Christians for a long time.

COLOSSIANS 2:12, 13 with some translations (including the NASB) have confused the issue and communicate an idea that I don't believe Paul intended, the idea that we are buried with Christ in baptism (this much Paul did intend) and then raised with Him spiritually (as born-again Christians) in baptism as we come up out of the water, which would fit the idea that the Spirit automatically comes while we are under the water or at least while we are being raised out of the water. For one thing that would be different than what Paul did in Acts 19:5, 6 (discussed above).

I'll quote COLOSSIANS 2:12, 13, "having been buried with Him in baptism, in which [[(This double bracket goes on for three paragraphs.) The translation "in which" ("en ho [omega, a long o]" in the Greek) would wrongly refer back to water baptism. It should be translated "in whom," referring to the Lord Jesus, in whom (in union with) we are raised up (born again and resurrected spiritually; we will be resurrected bodily in the future; the near future I believe) "through faith in the working of God". (God is the One who makes us alive spiritually, etc., but these things do not take place apart from our faith in Him and His Word.) The idea is not that we are born again/raised up spiritually in baptism, but that we are born again/raised up (resurrected spiritually) in union with the Lord Jesus, with whom we become united, by faith, through water baptism, according to Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27. I am not suggesting that we cannot be united with Christ before being baptized in water. Cornelius and his household were united with Christ before they were baptized.

OUR ALL-IMPORTANT, TOTALLY NECESSARY UNION WITH CHRIST IS EMPHASIZED IN THIS CONTEXT, NOT WATER BAPTISM. (Colossians 2:8-15 is one sentence in the Greek.) Colossians 2:10 says that "in Him [in Christ (in union with Christ)] you have been made complete [in the margin the NASB says that "you have been made full" would be more literal]." And Col. 2:11 says "and in Him ["en ho" in the Greek, exactly as in 2:12] you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands [this is a work of God, not man], in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." [The "circumcision of Christ" (understood in the full new-covenant sense) is the "circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit" of Rom. 2:29, which enables the born-again Christian to keep the old man from manifesting itself in sin as we walk by the Spirit in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God on a continuous basis. It is clear that Christians cannot live as those who are dead to sin or walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God without the work of the indwelling Spirit. Paul didn't mention the Spirit's coming in Col. 2:12, 13, but according to the typical pattern in the New Testament, He would have come shortly after water baptism, not in water baptism. If we don't receive the Spirit we cannot be true Christians.

IT IS TOTALLY NECESSARY FOR US TO RECEIVE THE SPIRIT! If the Holy Spirit does not dwell in us, we aren't real Christians (cf. Rom. 8:9). We cannot have spiritual life or walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God with the victory over sin apart from the indwelling Spirit of life, truth, righteousness, holiness, etc.]] you were also raised up with Him [With the translation "in whom" we would not translate the words "with Him" (which would be redundant in English and are not required by the Greek; for one thing, the Greek doesn't have a prepositional phrase here corresponding with the prepositional phrase "with Him."] through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. [God raises us up with Christ, in union with Christ, by the coming of the Spirit to dwell in us, through our faith in the working of God.] (13) When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God the Father] made you alive together with Him [("with Christ") The apostle Paul didn't mention the Spirit in these verses, but as I mentioned, we know, based on many other verses, that we are made alive by God the Father through the indwelling Spirit of life, the Holy Spirit.], having forgiven us all our transgressions [Being forgiven is obviously an important part of the preparation for receiving the Spirit. On forgiveness being tied to water baptism, see Acts 2:38, 39; 22:16. Again, I am not saying that believers cannot be forgiven and become Christians apart from water baptism.]."

ROMANS 6:3, 4 fit what I said regarding Col. 2:12, 13 perfectly: We are baptized into Christ, into union with Him (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27) and baptized into His death (Rom. 6:3), and we have been "buried with Him through baptism into death [the death of the old man], so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too [in union with Him] might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). These verses speak of becoming united with Christ through water baptism, but they do not say that we are born again and raised (resurrected spiritually) with Christ in water baptism. The emphasis of these verses is on what we have in union with Christ (by faith), not on water baptism. Paul doesn't mention the Spirit of life coming in these verses, but based on other passages of the New Testament, He comes in the typical New Testament pattern when we are born again and raised (resurrected spiritually), right after water baptism. The New Testament speaks of dying to the old man (and being buried) in water baptism, but it must be understood that the old man can continue to manifest itself in sin if we do not walk by faith in agreement with God's Word and by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis. We are enabled and required to do these things.

TITUS 3:5-7. (These verses are discussed in some detail in Parts 2 and 3 of this paper on Hebrews chapters 8-10.) I'll quote these verses: "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration [The "washing" takes place in water baptism, which (in the typical New Testament pattern) is preparatory for being regenerated (being born again) by the Spirit.] and renewing [This Greek noun ("anakainosis") is only used twice in the New Testament, here and Rom. 12:2. I would translate "renewal" in both verses with the BAGD Greek Lexicon.] by the Holy Spirit [[The Holy Spirit's coming to dwell within us enables us to be renewed by the Spirit, a renewal that includes thinking by the Spirit (Rom. 8:5-9); walking by the Spirit in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God on a continuous basis (cf., e.g., Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:5, 16-25); producing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23); and manifesting the gifts of the Spirit as God wills (cf., e.g., 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14; Rom. 12:1-8). But we must walk by the Spirit by faith on a continuous basis, in accordance with the Word of God (cf. Gal. 5:16).]], (6) whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior [[We could not be born of, and renewed by, the Spirit if Jesus had not earned the right (through His all-important INCARNATION, SINLESS LIFE, and ATONING DEATH and RESURRECTION) to pour out (cf. Acts 1:4, 5, 8; 2:1-4; and especially 2:33) the promised Holy Spirit, starting on the Day of Pentecost.]], (7) so that being justified [[Being justified is used in the full sense here that includes being declared righteous; the overthrow of spiritual death and bondage to sin; and being made righteous and holy. (See under Titus 3:7 in the fuller discussion of Titus 3:5-7 in Part 3 of this paper.) Our salvation, which includes being born of the Spirit and renewed by the Spirit, comes to us by grace through faith, based on the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ.]] by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." We will inherit eternal life in its glorious fullness at the end of this age, and it will never end.

This covers, I believe, all of the relevant passages in the New Testament. I don't believe I need to be dogmatic on all of these details, but I believe that what I have shared here should suffice to demonstrate that the New Testament typically speaks of believers receiving the Spirit shortly after water baptism, not in water baptism. As I mentioned, I don't know of any passages in the New Testament that speak of the Spirit coming in water baptism.

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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