We briefly considered last week what John meant when he said that the Christ would baptize people with the Holy Ghost and with fire (cf. Mat 3:10-12; Luke 3:9, 16, 17). A careful reading of the contexts shows that John was referring to two separate classes of people, with two separate acts of baptizing.
The contexts show us that the class that would be baptised with fire was described as “every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit” and “the chaff”. These the Lord would “hewn down, and cast into the fire” and “will burn with fire unquenchable”. These are apparently those who “rejected the counsel of God” (cf. Luke 7:29-30).
When John made his prophecy, he did not specify who exactly would be baptised with the Holy Spirit. One thing was clear: they were among his audience who heard him. We have also discussed last week why it is not only possible but very probable that the men who would later be appointed apostles by Jesus had heard John and were baptised by him in the Jordan (cf. Mat 3:5-6), and that at least one of them, Andrew, was a disciple of John (cf. John 1:35-40).
Let us now consider the fulfillment of John’s prophecy of baptism of the Holy Spirit and the beneficiaries of that prophecy.
It was about three and half years since John made his prophecy in the large presence of his disciples, members of the public from Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and many of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room partaking of the Passover feast. Judas had gone out from among them to carry out his devious plot of betrayal (cf. John 13:21-30).
In an emotional and powerful address to the remaining eleven, the Lord gave them a promise.
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you…But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:16-17, 26).”
What has this to do with John’s prophecy of the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Both Jesus and John were talking about the same thing. Do note that the Lord was speaking to His eleven apostles, minus Judas; not to an assembly like the ones during His public preaching. The number was now greatly narrowed from perhaps hundreds to a mere eleven.
“Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence (Act 1:2-5).”
We know have the identities of the men to whom the prophecy/promise was directed. The promise was fulfilled on the first Pentecost after the Lord’s ascension.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Act 2:1-4).”
The context of Acts chapter 2 informs us that it was the apostles who received the fulfillment of the promise. “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice (Acts 2:14)…”
When we put the texts together and study them in their contexts, we learn that firstly, although John did not specify who would be baptised with the Holy Spirit, it was clear that he did not mean everyone in the audience. Secondly, the Lord revealed in His promise that it was the apostles who would be baptised with the Holy Spirit and thirdly, Luke confirmed for us that indeed it happened as the Lord and John prophesied.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was a specific promise for specific people at a specific time. It was never meant to be a promise for every Christian or even an ‘elite’ class of Christians. Once more, let us be “rightly handling the word of truth” and be approved unto God (cf. 1Ti 2:15).