Dr. John B. MacDonald
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The significance of the ancient Festival of Weeks, or Pentecost, led us to the events of Acts 2 and the baptism in the Spirit. You may want to refresh your understanding from the previous blog: Celebrating Pentecost – even if you’re not Pentecostal.

Like the rest of us, you probably have a few more questions about the baptism in the Spirit.

Some questions 

  • Do I need to be baptized in the Spirit? If so, how do I do that?
  • Is there a difference between the baptism in the Spirit and other actions of the Spirit, such as:
    • the indwelling of the Spirit;
    • the sealing of the Spirit; or,
    • the filling of the Spirit?

And, if they’re different, what do they mean for me?

  • “Oh, and one more thing – you didn’t say what the significance of the loaves of bread is. Why two loaves? And, why were they baked with leaven or yeast?”

Of course, you may have other questions. Please feel free to let me know what they are by leaving a comment, or as most are doing, by sending me an e-mail at [email protected] .

Let’s start with the significance of the two loaves.

 

Two loaves baked with yeast

Some might be wondering why we should take the time to look at this – after all, what difference does it make?

In the text of the Bible, language is used economically. That means there is no ‘fluff’ or filler – every word and every scene is there for a reason, even if we don’t see it at first.

Here’s what we read about the two loaves:

"... bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD" (Leviticus 23:12).

Keeping in mind that Israel was to eliminate leaven or yeast from both its diet and its houses in earlier festivals, why are they now directed to present bread "baked with yeast" as a wave offering?

Yeast was used frequently for a metaphor for sin. The contamination of sin in our lives, grows and permeates everything – just like yeast in bread dough. The one thing that stops the growth of yeast is the heat of the oven. So the yeast in a baked loaf of bread is no longer living and growing – but it has left its mark. You can tell the difference between bread baked with yeast and without yeast.

The second question is, “Why two loaves?” I propose that the two loaves represent two people groups that have been distinct to this point: Jews and Gentiles (or, non-Jews). This proposal will (I hope) become clear and valid in a few moments.

So, the significance is a public demonstration of two distinct people groups united as they are held in the hands of the one priest. All these people, whether Jews or Gentiles, have experienced the effect of sin in their lives, but that sin is no longer living and growing effectively in their lives.

 

Do I need to be baptized in the Spirit?

My answer: yes, and no. That's probably not helpful at this point - but I think it will become clear.

Remember that the significance of the baptism in the Spirit is expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized [in][1] one Spirit into one body –whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 

So, we need to be part of this baptism in the Spirit if we are to be part of God’s redeemed people. I’ve been careful with my language. I have not said that you need to be baptized in the Spirit; rather you need to be part of this baptism in the Spirit.

Paul writes that “we were all baptized in one Spirit.” The “we … all” includes Paul and the Corinthians Christians – all of whom became followers of Jesus after the historical event of Acts 2. He also writes that “we were all baptized” – which, based upon the Greek grammar, refers to a (single) past event in which all “were baptized.”

Two points to keep in mind

Firstone day Festivals of the Lord were fulfilled in single historical events in Jesus Christ. The Feasts of Passover, First-Fruits, and Pentecost were each one day Festivals. These, and other principles, for understanding the significance of these Festivals were introduced in Celebrating God’s Grace – five guiding principles.

Second, the first four Festivals were in the Spring-time and, as such, were fulfilled by Jesus Christ in his first coming.

Keeping these two points before us we can say:

Jesus is not crucified again for that person – the unique and unrepeatable historical event of His crucifixion benefits fully all those who are followers of Jesus.

Jesus is not resurrected again for that person – the unique and unrepeatable historical event of His resurrection benefits fully all those who are followers of Jesus.

  • In the same way, the Festival of Pentecost was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost by the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2). When a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, that person comes into the full benefit of the baptism of the Spirit.

Jesus does not baptize in the Spirit again for that person – the unique historical event of the baptism in the Spirit benefits fully all those who are followers of Jesus.

“But,” you ask, “what about the event when the Spirit was given to the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17), and when ‘the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles’ (Acts 10:44-48), and when the Spirit came to the disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-7)?”

That’s a great question – and we haven’t even dealt with those we asked earlier. Let me try to answer some more of these questions in the next blog.

Reflection

Take time to think deeply about the historical events of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, his resurrection, and the baptism in the Spirit. You might want to spend some time reading some text of the Bible carefully. These texts could include the last couple of chapters from a Gospel together with Acts 1-2.

By analogy you stand with the people who lived in and around Jerusalem in those first days and weeks.

Begin to consider how you would have acted as one of Jesus’ followers when you heard about his crucifixion and burial; when you heard or even saw him after his resurrection; as you stood with the 120 in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.

Focus on the benefits and responsibilities that flow to you as one of these followers of Jesus Christ. For instance, benefits you identify may include the forgiveness of sins and the reality of new life.

What about your new responsibilities? For sure, one of these is to “be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

What do these historical events ‘then and there’ mean for you in your ‘here and now’? 

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[1] I have inserted "in" in place of "with" used by many English translations. My reason for this is the Greek word used is en meaning "in." I suggest that "with" weakens the meaning of what was happening in this baptism, and I suspect that "with" is used as a concession to those who do not view baptism as an act immersion "in." 

 

Photo Credit: Stephen Oachs (ApertureAcademy.com) via Compfight cc

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