Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
In this passage we see Jesus making two very similar statements. First He says that “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Next He says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” It seems that these two statements are usually taken as a repetition of the same idea, meant more for emphasis than anything else. But the thing that I noticed was how in the first, we are able to “see” the kingdom of God when we are born again. But with the second, when we are born of flesh and the Spirit, we may “Enter”. To me these are two very different statements.
In Matthew 3.11, John the baptist makes reference to three baptisms. He says, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Salvation is a cleansing. It is a baptism of repentance and the removal of our sin. But this baptism is more an external cleansing. I can receive God’s forgiveness, yet not have a change of nature. This was the baptism that John offered. He could bring them up to the point of salvation, but until Christ's death and resurrection, they could not grasp the fullness of it. They could not enter in. This was the baptism of water.
I believe that the baptism of the Spirit and of fire are interlinked, yet are talking about two separate things. The baptism of the Spirit is where God imparts His power unto individuals, so that they can accomplish the things that they have been called to do. This of course assumes that the individuals use that power under the authority in which that power was given. The baptism of fire, on the other hand is a baptism of purification. This is where God increases the heat to burn off the dross, making us pure in heart and solidifying the relationship between us and Him. It is through the baptism of fire that we are born of the Spirit and the Spirit becomes greater than the flesh.
Born of the Spirit...
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