To understand what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is, we need to first understand why Jesus was baptized by John and died on the Cross. As Romans 3:23 states, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” every human being is born as a sinner who cannot but commit iniquities before God, and according to Romans 6:23, which tells us that “the wages of sin is death,” each and every one of mankind therefore cannot avoid but be punished to death as the wages of sin.
But God the Father, who loves mankind, has prepared a way by which we can be cleansed of our sins, judged for and saved from them, all through Jesus. God the Father sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, and poured the punishment, which we had to receive ourselves, on Jesus instead through His baptism and crucifixion. In our place, Jesus took upon our sins and was punished to death by God the Father. However, Jesus, who is unblemished, pure and righteous, then overcame death and triumphed over it. He rose, in other words, from the dead again.
How, then, are these works of atonement fulfilled by Jesus connected to mankind? By believing His works means for us to receive the remission of all our sins. Jesus, who bore all the sins of mankind by being baptized by John at the Jordan River, received all the punishment that He suffered on the Cross to give us the remission of our sins. When we believe that Jesus was baptized by John and suffered His death as the vicarious bearing of our own punishment of sin, the righteousness of God is fulfilled in our hearts.
Furthermore, the righteousness of Jesus is passed onto us as our own righteousness and we are clothed in it, and we therefore come to be considered as the perfectly righteous ones before God, become His children, and partake in eternal life. Galatians 3:27 states, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Like this verse, we become righteous the very moment when we believe that all our sins were passed onto Jesus with His baptism received from John, and believe in the punishment of the Cross.
The word baptism carries several meanings, one of which is to cleanse away sins, and another is to unite. Like this, we must realize that “to be baptized by the Holy Spirit” is to know and believe with what method Jesus the Son has solved the problem of the iniquities of sinners, and that it is by this faith that we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
That the Holy Spirit has come into our hearts, dwells in us and unites with us, means that we have believed in the baptism of Jesus. This ministry of the Holy Spirit is well described in the passage from Matthew 3:13-17. Jesus said that the reason why He was baptized by John was to fulfill all the righteous of God with the method of this baptism that He received from John. Therefore, to receive the Holy Spirit, we must first believe that Jesus took upon all the sins of mankind by being baptized by John. This is how we can unite with the Holy Spirit, and the Bible also tells us that we receive the Holy Spirit by believing in the grace of the remission of sin, that Jesus was crucified and shed His blood because He had accepted all the sins of mankind passed onto Him with His baptism. The Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of those who have been cleansed of their sins with the baptism of Jesus and the blood of the Cross.
This is shown in the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus. To Nicodemus who came to see Him, Jesus said that only those who are born again could see the Kingdom of God. Being born again means that a soul that had died because of sin is regenerated as new, and partakes in the eternal life of the Kingdom of God. Hearing about the truth of being born again, Nicodemus was unable to understand what it meant, and so he asked Jesus how such a thing could be happen.
At this time, Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Only by believing the ministry of Jesus that eliminates all our sins and even the root of our sins, can we be born again as new, and such a wonderful work was fulfilled when He was baptized and died on the Cross. When we believe it, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. No effort, work, achievement, ability, or character of mankind whatsoever is involved in this. We need the faith that believes in the truth that only the baptism of Jesus and His death on the Cross have thus cleansed away the sins of mankind.
We need to pay attention to what Jesus continued to say in His conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus emphasized the importance of the Word that we must be born again of water and the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s ministry of regeneration that makes our souls born again—that is, the baptism of the Holy Spirit—is not only a transformation that occurs in the profound depth of a person’s heart, but it is also an extremely mysterious ministry. Because of this, the ministry itself cannot be seen through our own reason or consciousness. What we can know is that receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes together with the remission of sin that we received into our hearts when we believed in the baptism of Jesus and the blood of the Cross. We realize that we have become God’s children when we receive the Holy Spirit as a gift (Romans 8:15).