At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and he received the spirit of God in the form of a dove. John 1:29-33, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. And John bore witness ‘I saw the spirit descend to remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’.”
Further on in the gospels, both the baptism of John by water – otherwise known as the baptism of repentance for sin – and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are spoken of as necessary for salvation and a deep union with Christ. Christ said, in John 3:3-5, “Truly, truly I say to you unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” “One must be born anew to enter the kingdom.”
Peter said in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Paul also emphasized baptism in Acts 19:4-6, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance telling people to believe in Jesus who was to come, and on hearing this they were baptized and then Paul laid his hands upon them and the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”
Are these things true? And what is the deeper meaning of baptism?
It is easy to see the symbolic meaning of baptism by water and spirit. Water represents eternally changing truth that yet remains essentially unaltered over time, and the ever-flowing nature of our feelings. Spirit symbolizes the active principle of our thoughts and our will. We must give these human faculties over to Christ who symbolized what love means through his life and his death.
Before a spirit can be reborn, it must repent. If we can’t recognize our own Lower Self, how can be know the harmful effects we are having on others. How would we be motivated to change the error of our ways. When we decide to do this, our feelings will change, our thoughts and will direction will shift, and we shall truly be reborn of water and spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ.
When we use the expression “in the spirit of Jesus Christ,” or “in the name of Jesus Christ,” we are saying that we take this action the way Jesus would: with the same attitude, thoughts, loving nature, willingness to forgive, abiding positive intention, devotion to God, and sacrificing of the little me-me-me ego—all for the greater good. We’re not just saying we have a simplistic belief in this historical person named Jesus Christ who gives us salvation—although this is actually often just what’s meant.
It really doesn’t matter whether an actual dunking in water took place. If it did, it was a ritual and the purpose of doing so would have been to express the inner meaning. Later such a ritual, as is often the case, may become an empty gesture. Then people blindly believe that the act creates the transformation. But that, of course, can never be the deal, no matter how much lip service is given to praising the Lord and pronouncing undying devotion to him.
Inner transformation takes hard work. And it takes time. We can’t do this without the help of the Lord. But with his help, all things are possible. When an inner baptism takes place—meaning an inner transformation and a total commitment to aligning with the will of God—a magnificent light springs up in the Spirit World. This light adds to the great reservoir of all-things-good-and-wonderful, rejoining the glory of eternal life.
Is it true that the outer manifestation of baptism in the spirit must be speaking in tongues? Acts 2 describes the experience of the disciples at Pentecost when they received the manifestation of the comforter that Jesus had promised them. “And there appeared to them tongues of fire resting upon their heads, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”
Also, in Corinthians 1, verse 12, Paul speaks of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “To each is given the manifestation for the common good. To one the utterance of wisdom, to another the utterance of knowledge of the spirit, to another faith, to another healing, to another the working of miracles, to another tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues, to another the discerning of spirits. All of these are inspired by one and the same spirit.” What does this mean?
A great deal of confusion exists about speaking in tongues. It is a true fact that on the road of spiritual development, psychic powers are going to wake up. These can be dedicated to God and then integrated in a meaningful and harmonious way into a person’s life. But at times, people become so fascinated by psychic powers that more emphasis is put on them than is helpful or good. Then the whole spirit of this inner journey can get hijacked.
There are many different kinds of mediumistic manifestations, one of which is speaking in languages that the medium doesn’t know. Wow, how convincing for onlookers. This might even help people let go of their convictions that the only things that are real are the material things we touch and see. But it can morph into sensational nonsense that is no longer connected with divine spirits.
Back in biblical times, there was a great influx of inner awakenings and new, deeper understandings, so all kinds of psychic phenomena were breaking out all over: healings, speaking in tongues and many other things that weren’t mentioned because they couldn’t be explained or understood. But it’s a colossal mistake to make these phenomena—including even the healings—an end goal in themselves. They are byproducts and should always be taken as being just that.
Regarding prophecy, this is something that could be used by certain divine spirits—on occasion and for a specific purpose. But too often this turns into an unreliable source that is even operated behind the curtain by evil spirits. The “comforter” is something we all experience when we no longer defend ourselves but rather commit ourselves to being in truth. Then we become filled with goodwill and an intention to follow God’s will in everything we do. When we do this, no matter how much we’re hurting or still in fear, we will be comforted.
The “tongues of fire resting on their heads” refers to the manifestation of this power on the energetic level. Clairvoyant people may be able to see the aura light up with bright, surging light that appears like fiery tongues arising from the head. This is of course also a symbolic expression of the fire of love, and the strength of spirit that is more powerful than anything else. Such gifts of the spirit are poured out onto the heads of to those who walk a spiritual path such as the Guide teaches.
Commitment ceremonies that people participate in as a part of their spiritual journey are in every way a symbolic ritual of baptism. But remember, the outer must never trump the inner. The inner is where all the power lies and this must become firmly seated in our souls. Then beautiful outer ceremonies will only give an inkling of what lives within.
We need to keep renewing our attitudes, updating our laws and adjusting our dispositions in order to keep the ever-flowing waters of truth and divinity springing forth in our lives. In the same way, we must re-read Scripture, release its riddles and reawaken our understanding. It should never be taken as a fixed thing that is dictated to us. That wrings the very life out of it.
So some sayings must be seen as no longer applicable. Others can be embraced for their truthful meaning, even if not on the factual level. It is up to each of us to do our best to understand whatever Scripture we hold dear, allowing our touch to be what awakens it to become a living truth.
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