He is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit

Fr. Francis Martin

All four Gospels agree that John the
Baptist compared his ministry to
that of Jesus by describing his
ministry as baptizing in water
whereas the one for whom he was
preparing the way would baptize
in the Holy Spirit (“and fire”).

In addition, Jesus is quoted twice
as echoing the same prophecy:
“…for John baptized with water,
but you will be baptized with the
Holy Spirit not many days from
now” (Acts 1:5; ll: 16). By using this
comparison John was comparing
his preparatory activity with the
definitive action of Jesus which
flows initially from the Cross (“He
handed over the Spirit.” Jn 19:30)
and is completed at Jesus’ glor-
ification: “Being therefore exalted
at the right hand of God, and
having received from the Father
the promise of the Holy Spirit, he
has poured out this that you both
see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

It is important, I think, to under-
stand that the Baptist’s words are
comparing his actions with God’s
promise of a future definitive
saving action to and through the
people of Israel. I say this because,
through none of the Old Testament
prophecies use the expression
“baptized in the Spirit,” the notion
of “pouring out” of the Spirit is
common enough in promising this
definitive future act of God. Here
are a few examples:

The castle will be forsaken, the
noisy city deserted…Until the
Spirit from on high is poured out
on us (Is 32:14-14).

I will pour out water upon the
thirsty ground, streams upon the
dry land: I will pour out my Spirit
upon your offspring, my blessing
upon your descendants (Is 44:3).

And, finally, the text quoted by
St. Peter at Pentecost (Acts2:17-18):
“It shall came to pass that I will
pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and daughters will
prophecy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see

“Even upon your male and female
servants, in those days, I will pour
out my Spirit” (Joel 3:1-1).

At the Regina Coeli Prayer in 2008,
addressing the crowds from his
balcony, Pope Benedict said this:
“Today I would like to extend and
invitation to all: let us rediscover,
dear brothers and sisters, the
beauty of being baptized in the
Holy Spirit; let us rediscover
awareness of our Baptism and our
Confirmation, ever timely sources
of grace.” This is another way of
saying, as Pope Benedict has done
when speaking of the Year of Faith,
that we must have an encounter
with the living Christ.

John the Baptist proclaimed this
when he said: “I saw the Spirit
come down like a dove from the
Sky and remain upon him. I did not
know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit
come down and remain, he is the
one who will baptize with the Holy
Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testi-
fied that he is the Son of God” (Jn

There are two other Johannine
texts that open up this truth for
us. The first is Jesus’ invitation on
the feast of Tablernacles when he
explicity promises that he himself
will become the new rock in the
desert from whom living water
will flow:

On the last day, the great one,
of the feast, Jesus stood and cried
out: If someone thirst, let him come
to me and he will drink. The one
who believes in me, as the Scripture
says: from out of his midst rivers
will flow of living water. Now he
said this of the Spirit which those
who believed in him were going to
receive. For the Spirit was not yet,
Because Jesus was not yet glorified
(Jn 7:37-39).

The second text is found in the
second of the five Paraclete

When the Paraclete comes; whom I
will send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of Truth who will come
forth from the Father, he will
witness concerning me. Moreover,
you will witness because you are
with me from the beginning
(Jn 15:26-27).

This text uncovers for us the mystery of the
relationship between Jesus and the Holy
Spirit. Jesus baptizes in the Holy Spirit by
sending the Spirit from the Father who
“witnesses concerning me.” This is the
baptism in the Holy Spirit. By sending the
Spirit who witnesses we are brought to a
personal encounter with the living Word of
God Incarnate: this changes us and enables
us to witness in turn. We should bear in
mind, however that this is an ongoing
rhythm. As we obey the movements of the
Holy Spirit, who is sent from Jesus precisely
to conform us to him and enable us to grow
in union with him, we thus become a
witness able to bring about conviction. This
is an ongoing rhythm which is meant to
bring us to transforming union. Jesus pro-
missed this when he said: “the one who has
my commandments and keeps them, he is
the one who loves me. The one loving me
will be loved by my Father and I will show
myself to him” (Jn 14:21). We are led to a
more profound union with and knowledge of the Son of God by obeying thecommands
of Jesus and the Spirit makes them known
to us: this is an ongoing baptism in the Holy

Allow me to conclude by giving another
description of the mature state of baptism
in the Holy Spirit. It is by St. John of the
Cross: “Although it is true that a person will
hardly be found whose union with God is so
continuous that his faculties, without any
form, are always divinely moved (when Johnsays “always,” he means twenty-four hoursa day), nevertheless, there are those who are very habitually moved by God and not by themselves in their operations. As St.Paul says, “The children of God” – that is,
those who are transformed by God and
united to him – “are moved by the Spirit
of God” – that is, moved to divine works in
their faculties. (The Ascent of Mt. Carmel,
3,2,16, ICS pub. P. 219).

Fr. Francis Martin has been involved in the
Renewal since 1967. A noted Scripture
scholar, he is founder and president of
The Word Proclaimed Institute (WPI), which
helps clergy become more deeply immersed
in Scripture. Father Martin’s publications
include Sacred Scripture: The Discourse of
the Word, The Life Changer, Baptism in the
Holy Spirit, The Feminist Question, as well
as Acts in the Ancient Christian
Commentary series.

Reprinted from Pentecost Today, Spring 2013 www.nsc-chariscenter.org