Luke tells us in Luke 3:16-17 how John described Jesus’ baptism. Nevertheless, Scripture records that one of the reasons Jesus left Judea after John was imprisoned by Herod was that the Pharisees knew that he baptized more than John (John 4:1, 3). Yet, the Scripture also makes a point in revealing that Jesus, himself, baptized no one (John 4:2). Jesus’ disciples did the baptizing, just as Christians continue to do today. This is simply a baptism of water to which folks come to confess that they have repented of their rebellion against God and receive Jesus as their Lord. So, not only doesn’t Jesus do the baptizing, but the method is water, just like that of John. This couldn’t be the Messiah’s baptism of which John spoke, could it?
John, indeed, had spoken of a different kind of baptism, a much more powerful baptism than that of water. The Messiah would immerse his disciples in the Holy Spirit and fire. He will separate the grain (true disciples) from the chaff (false brethren), put the grain into his barn (his disciples into the Kingdom) and burn the chaff (those who are false will remain under the judgment of God – cf. Luke 3:16-17). John contrasts his baptism with that of Christ by using spirit and fire in contrast with water. The one (John’s) is used for outer cleansing or behavioral changes expressed in good works, while the other (Christ’s) penetrates to the inner being, discerning “thoughts and intents of the heart” (cf. Hebrews 4:12).
The Messiah’s Baptism came for the first time on the Pentecost following Jesus’ crucifixion in the first century AD (cf. Acts 2:1-4, 16-18). The Baptism of the Messiah represents a new way of thinking (Proverbs 1:23; John 14:26). Just as man is capable of understanding the world in which he lives through his human spirit, and is able to teach those things to others of his race, so, too, we are able to understand the things of God through his Spirit, which he gives us, and we are able to teach the things of God only to those who also have God’s Spirit dwelling within them (cf. 1Corinthians 2:11). Anyone who doesn’t have God’s Spirit would find the Gospel a foolish matter (1Corinthians 2:14). Therefore, the baptism of the Holy Spirit represents, first, a new way of thinking, quite unlike anything man has understood before (cf. 1Corinthians 2:7-9).
Secondly, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is powerful to change the human race, because having the Holy Spirit within us represents an addition to our nature, something we did not have prior to becoming Jesus’ disciple. The recipient of the Spirit of God becomes a partaker of divine nature (2Peter 1:3-4). We, indeed, are new creatures (2Corinthians 5:17), having both human and divine natures just as Jesus had (John 1:1, 14; cf. Philippians 2:6-7). The old creation arose out of Adam and followed his rebellion, the fruit of which is death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12). However, the new creation arises out of our new Adam, Christ, whose fruit is eternal life (1Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:15-19). Therefore, if any man is in Christ, i.e. immersed in Christ or baptized by the Spirit of Christ, he is a new creature (2Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:9), capable of not only understanding the things of God (1Corinthians 2:11) but also bearing the fruit of God’s Spirit from within (Galatians 5:22-23).
Truly, Jesus’ baptism is much more powerful than that of John. John was able to influence his disciples to confess their rebellion against God and change their behavior by treating one another kindly in obedience to the Law of Moses. However, such is only an outer matter; the inner man remains untouched. Christ’s baptism, on the other hand, changes the inner man, whereby the recipient of Christ’s Spirit becomes able to both understand God’s will and becomes endowed with the ability to perform God’s will. Nevertheless, this is a spiritual matter. The Messiah’s baptism does not increase the power of the flesh to do these things. Rather, it is God in us who both communicates his will and empowers us to fulfill his desires (Philippians 2:12-13; 2Corinthians 3:5; cf. Galatians 2:20).