In the last post I mentioned the ire of the Jewish leaders that Jesus would heal a man on the Sabbath. There is a similar story in John 5 where Jesus heals the man by the pool called Bethesda. Once the man was healed, Jesus didn’t just tell him to stand. He told him to get up, take up his mat and walk (5:8). The Jewish tradition specifically said carrying a mat on the Sabbath was “work” so they believed Jesus was breaking the Sabbath. Jesus told him to do something unnecessary to demonstrate his healing. He told him something that would provoke a bigger conversation about the nature of Jesus himself.
Here is Jesus defense of his actions,
“16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” – 5:16-18.
The Jews believed that God was at work every single day. He was at work in the birth of children. God was at work adding people to the covenant at circumcision. Circumcision was always done on the 8th day after birth even if it was a Sabbath and no one considered that action work. The point is this. God can work on the Sabbath and not break Sabbath. The command was given for them, not for God himself. You can see in these verses that they very quickly understood exactly what Jesus was saying – that he was equating himself with God so they tried to kill him, just like we saw in Mark in the previous post.
God never stops working, even after He gives them the scriptures. It isn’t one or the other. It is both.
What does this have to do with baptism and the Holy Spirit?
When Jesus was baptized the Spirit came upon him. When Peter invited the people at Pentecost to respond to Jesus he told them to repent and be baptized in Acts 2. We have focused so much on getting that verbiage perfect (the meaning of eis, for instance) but often missed what he promised next. He told them not just what they should do but also what God would do – God would give them the gift of the Spirit and forgive their sins. To be fair, we catch the forgiveness of sins part but often neglect the gift of the Spirit part at least for us today. We relegate that to be a first century thing rather than a today thing. The problem with that view is that Peter specifically says this promise isn’t just for them but for generations to come and even for those who are far off. This wasn’t just a first century, one generation, promise.
The view many of us grew up hearing was that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were needed only for one generation in order to confirm the Gospel before the Bible was written and was given only by the apostolic laying on of hands. So when the apostles died so did the possibility of imparting the gifts. This view has been used not only to discredit miraculous gifts today but also the necessity of the indwelling of the Spirit today. But Peter isn’t talking about imparting miraculous gifts. Peter is talking about reception of the Spirit himself.
Here is my point – it is normative for the Spirit to be connected with baptism. Because that is the case, we can safely assume that every time someone is baptized, the Spirit is working. We saw it first with Jesus and then we see that same thing promised by Peter in Acts 2. I believe we can put the pieces of this view together in Peter and Paul’s letters and then connect that back to John 5 and God’s work.
Peter and Paul connect the resurrection of Jesus to the work of the Holy Spirit. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” – 1 Peter 3:18. We read something similar in Romans 8:11, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
Jesus was raised back to life, from death and the grave, by the Holy Spirit.
Why is this significant? It is significant because Paul connects our baptism with Jesus’ resurrection. So the Spirit is at work in Jesus’ resurrection and our resurrection is a parallel of Jesus’ so the Spirit is at work in our baptism. We see this in Romans 6 that in our baptism we re-enact Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. We are united with him in these things by being buried in the water where our old self dies and are raised in new life. If what happened to Jesus happens to us, paired with Peter’s promise of the Spirit at baptism in Acts 2, then the Spirit is at work every time someone is baptized into Christ. If that is true, then cessation of the work of the Spirit today is wrong.
The truth of the matter is that the Spirit is at work every single day in our lives in a very real way. Once we open ourselves up to that reality then we can become more and more in tune and aware of the Spirit’s working in our lives. We shouldn’t just wonder if it happens. We should expect it.