John the Baptist identified three types of baptisms: By water, by the Holy Spirit, and by fire. But what do those mean?
In John’s use, water baptism was a symbol of repentance in the heart and mind of the person who was baptized. “The Jew who accepted baptism from John,” explains one Bible scholar, “confessed his sins and expressed determination to live a righteous life.” Christians later adapted John’s symbolic practice of water baptism. “Rather than symbolize repentance, Christian baptism symbolizes the union of the believer with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection.”
According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, Holy Spirit baptism is that unseen immersion that happens when a Christian is spiritually united with Jesus and, by extension, all others who have been united with Jesus through faith.
Baptism by fire has been thought to signify two things. First is as a reference God’s final, destructive judgment on those who refuse to repent and believe in Jesus (see Matthew 3:12). Second, for Christians, baptism by fire is seen as a symbolically purifying act whereby the Holy Spirit cleanses us from sin.
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