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The two gifts from God of forgiveness and His Holy Spirit make possible the greatest gift of all, which is eternal, glorified life in the everlasting Kingdom of God (Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
It is always God who initiates our relationship with Him. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws [or calls] him” (John 6:44). God’s calling involves causing us to hear the true gospel while at the same time opening our minds to spiritual understanding (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14).
Although we cannot earn the gift of eternal life, God does have conditions we must fulfill. We must sincerely repent for our disobedience to God’s laws, and faithfully trust in God and believe His Word, the Bible. Jesus Christ emphasized these conditions during His ministry (Mark 1:15).
In Acts chapter 2, on the day Jesus’ disciples first received the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter explained that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ was necessary to pay the penalty for our sins, and that our sinfulness was responsible for His suffering. His listeners were “ cut to the heart, and asked “what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:36-37).
Peter answered by telling them: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (verse 38). He made it clear that we must receive two things to be reconciled to God—forgiveness and the Holy Spirit.
Peter makes no mention of the other condition here, which is faith because the question his listeners asked — “What shall we do?”---- showed they believed and already had faith in his message and the Scriptures. They wanted to know what they needed to do to act on that faith!
Once a person is mature enough to make important lifelong decisions, and has a basic spiritual understanding and belief in the gospel message and God’s plan of salvation, God desires to see that person repent and be baptized to receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. The Greek word translated “baptize” is baptizo, meaning immerse, submerge or put into. It is important to be aware that, in the Bible, “baptize” always means immerse. Therefore, someone cannot be baptized by pouring or sprinkling. Immersion is necessary.
John the Baptist needed “much water” for baptizing (John 3:23), and Jesus, when John baptized Him, “came up immediately from the water” (Matthew 3:16). When Philip baptized an Ethiopian eunuch, they “went down into the water” (Acts 8:38), and afterwards, “they came up out of the water” (verse 39). This is important because of what baptism represents. Being put into and under water pictures a burial, and rising from the water a resurrection.
Baptism actually pictures three deaths, burials and resurrections:
First, baptism symbolizes our faith in the fact “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Second, it symbolizes our acknowledgment of the need for our old sinful way of life to be “put to death” and be buried forever (Colossians 3:3-5). Rising from the water symbolizes our beginning to “walk in newness of life” in a figurative resurrection (Romans 6:3-6). Although our spiritual character isn’t instantly transformed, baptism symbolizes our lifelong dedication to that goal.
Third, baptism symbolizes our faith in the hope of the literal resurrection to come —“that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15).
Once a person has been baptized, he is ready to receive God’s Holy Spirit, which is the spiritual essence and power emanating from God the Father and Jesus Christ. (See the following article: God Gives Christians Divine Help Through His Spirit). God’s Holy Spirit is given immediately after baptism during the laying on of hands by one of God’s ministers as he prays for the baptized person to receive the gift of God’s Spirit (Acts 8:14-17; 2 Timothy 1:6).
Once you have the Holy Spirit, you have “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27) and are “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27). You have a “new heart” and are becoming a “new man” (Ezekiel 18:31; Ephesians 4:24). We are then part of the body of Christ 1 Corinthians 12:27). After you receive the Holy Spirit, that is when real spiritual growth begins!
Beyond Today Magazine (Jul-Aug 2021)