In mark’s gospel he talks about St John the Baptist baptising people with water, ad St John himself speaks about Jesus baptising people with the Holy Spirit. The distinction in my edition suggests that the baptism of John, with water, is a lesser baptism than the one to come. “I baptise you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mk 1:8)
This outward sign of inward grace, Baptism, is clearly not a one-time event, at least in one sense. Baptism by John, with water was not seen as being the only baptism that one might experience, for Jesus might also baptise, and according to the other three Gospels, this time with fire.
Whilst there is a tradition generally held in most Christian denominations in the church of having one Baptism only, I do wonder what has happened to the Baptism by fire.
The use of the imagery of fire, flame for example, as a symbol for the Holy Spirit is a use we are familiar with in Christian literature and art. It is used in the description of the appearance of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. (Acts 2)
Whether this second baptism is done with the use of fire, rushing wind or anything else, it is a fascinating consideration that there is, somewhere in the totality of creation, a second Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
One might think that this ‘Baptism with the Holy spirit’ happens at the time of ‘Baptism with water’, or at a time when the individual declares, for them self, Jesus as Lord and Saviour. My concern here isn’t with that, but rather with the notion that there is a second baptism at all.
I realise that there are many historic, theological, cultural and denominational perspectives that bear down on this subject. I can hear the clamouring voices of the Theological antiquarian and I admire you all. However, I am wondering if this focus, this resolution of baptism into two, is a helpful revelation for us ordinary Christians.