February 17 (Reading for February 13-19: Romans 6). For last year’s reading plan, I posted on December 8 a commentary on Romans 6, so for this week, I will comment only on verses 3-4. When I was in Guadeloupe, I discovered a book in French by Ralph Shallis. He pointed out five immediate and simultaneous operations of the Holy Spirit which take place in salvation. Although there is no sequence to these operations, I list first the one found in our text: (1) The baptism of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptizer announced: “After me One is coming who is mightier than I…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk. 1:7-8). Paul described the significance of this spiritual baptism when he wrote: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life” (vv. 3-4). The figure of baptism encompasses all else that takes place in salvation, because the Holy Spirit immerses, or “plunges” (the meaning of the word baptize) the repentant sinner into the death of Christ. God considers the person who has thus identified by faith with Christ in His death and resurrection to be “dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11) and forgives their sin. Water baptism by immersion is a symbol of this baptism “with the Holy Spirit.” (See also 1 Corinthians 12:13).
Other operations of the Holy Spirit in salvation are (2) the presence of the Holy Spirit. When the obstacle of sin is removed through God’s forgiveness, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in you. Jesus said, “…the Father…will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth … you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you” (Jn. 14:16-17). (See also 1 Corinthians 6:19).
(3) The regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Hear again the words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). John described the children of God as those “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God” (Jn. 1:13). (See also 1 Jn. 5:1).
(4) The anointing of the Holy Spirit. Anointing the head with oil was very significant in the Old Testament to show that someone was being set apart for God’s service. The anointing with oil symbolizes that the individual is filled with the Spirit of God. “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (2 Cor. 1:21-22). This verse seems to show that the anointing is synonymous with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(5) The sealing of the Holy Spirit. “In Him, you also…—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of the promise” (Eph. 1:13). (See also 2 Cor. 1:22, quoted above). This sealing is meant as a “pledge” (guarantee), or as “a first installment of our inheritance, in regard to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14).
So, this “newness of life” that is mentioned in our reading means that we, as children of God, are baptized with the Spirit, we are indwelt by the Spirit, we are born of the Spirit, and we are anointed and sealed by the Spirit. What miraculous grace we possess!
– Al Gary