A brother from London emailed me this question this month on Christ baptizing with the Holy Spirit; the following is the question and then my reply—

“In John’s Gospel, chapter 1, there is a section that deals with the testimony of John the Baptist. In verse 33, he says that as opposed to himself, who baptizes just with water, Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit. My question is, what does it mean that Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit in this verse specifically?”

Reply–

Regarding your question, I think it is clear what John is talking about; John was introducing Christ as the Messiah to Israel and in doing so, John was really ushering in the New Covenant and introducing all of Israel to the arrival of the New Covenant in the arrival of the Son of God; the significance of the beginning of the New Covenant, as regarding the Holy Spirit, is that it is marked by the full giving of the Holy Spirit upon the church permanently; Jesus is the giver of the Holy Spirit—only He is the true Giver of the Spirit.

So the apostle John was simply saying that while John the Baptist is the one bringing Israel to submit to water baptism as proof of their repentance, Jesus is the full Giver of the Holy Spirit to His people. John was the water baptizer, but Christ is the Spirit baptizer. Jesus, as the head of the New Covenant, brings the full blessing of the gift of the Holy Spirit to every believer and upon the church corporately; John is simply saying that Jesus, the Redeemer, is the source and giver of the Holy Spirit fully, now with the inauguration of the New Covenant. This is what His baptizing with the Spirit means, both initially in salvation and also when He empowers His people with the outpouring or a fresh giving of power with the presence of the Spirit. Wonderful reality indeed!!

– Mack Tomlinson

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