John the Baptist was the last of the Old Covenant prophets. He fulfilled Isaiah 40 to be the one preparing the way of the Lord. His job was to get people turning from their sin (repentance) and baptised.
That dealt with their past but gave them no power for future obedience. You can see his frustration in that in v7 “You brood of vipers!… Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!”
- He taught them how to do that…
- Sharing possessions and provisions with the needy
- Not ripping people off
- Being content with your pay
That kind of teaching made people wonder if he was the awaited Messiah or Christ. John knew he wasn’t and points out the Christ will not just deal with past sin, but make available power for the future too.
He introduces us to the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”
Baptism is not a religious word – in Greek it’s baptizo and just means to drench, dip or immerse so a change happens – like baptising onions in vinegar to pickle them. So John is telling us that Jesus will immerse us in the power of the Holy Spirit so we change
Holy Spirit – had until then, been largely known as the Spirit of God. Only twice is He referred to with the adjective Holy in the Old Testament – one of those is when King David was pleading with God not to take the Holy Spirit away from him because he had been pretty unholy. It’s like John makes the adjective Holy a part of the Spirit’s name!
Spirit – the Old Testament shows us the Spirit of God filled certain people for certain tasks. And not many of them either – 150 at the last count!
So when John says the Christ will baptise in the Holy Spirit, the original hearers would have understood something like “The Christ will drench you in the power of God who is holy to make you holy.”
Have you been drenched in the Spirit to give you power to be holy? Acts 19:2 shows us it is not automatic when we became a Christian. Although the Holy Spirit births us (John 3:6), we need to be prayed for to be filled with power. Power to be holy from this passage, power to bear fruit (Gal 5:22) and power to be a witness (Acts 1:8).
Why not ask someone to pray for you this Sunday or at small group.