Baptisms of water, spirit, blood

Jan 11, 2016 by

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In 1 John 5, three witnesses are named that authenticate Jesus: the baptisms of water, spirit and blood. An authentic Anabaptist witness will embrace all three. Too often, churches will emphasize only one and lose the witness of the other two.

The baptism of water symbolizes the step of obedience and in church history is associated with a commitment to the authority of scripture. If we emphasize only obedience, the Christian life can become quite dutiful, legalistic and dry. We begin to use external methods of power and control to keep the next generations within our belief systems.

The emphasis on the Spirit brings the vitality of life, gifts of power and discernment, and an experience of the miraculous presence of the Lord. With a singular emphasis here, we become vulnerable to a health-and-wealth gospel, where these gifts are used for our own satisfaction first. We begin to pretend to be moving in the Spirit for our own gain and glory.

The emphasis on entering into Jesus’ blood and suffering motivates us to spend our lives sacrificially on behalf of others. Without the clarity the other baptisms bring, our vision of shalom and of God’s power for transformation is lost. We become susceptible to the agendas of the political left and right, focusing on government and power rather than than the power of the “word of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb.”

The strength we saw in the early Anabaptists is apparent when all three of these baptisms are brought together. Simple obedience, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the willingness to forsake all for the gospel. It is these three together that transformed communities, worked to correct injustice, and saw the divine move of God in surprising ways. May it be so.

John Troyer lives in Goshen, Ind., and is the executive director of Evana Network, an emerging network for Anabaptist churches. He blogs for Evana here, where this first appeared.


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