January 10, 2021
Rev. Nathan Malone
Pastor, Christ United Methodist Church
Scenic South District
Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
On this day when we remember the baptism of Jesus Christ, we are given an opportunity to reflect on what we as United Methodists believe about baptism and what it means to be the people of Christ. In our Wesleyan theological heritage, we believe that God is the primary actor in baptism, that in this sacrament, God is marking the recipient as one of God’s own. Baptism acknowledges God’s prevenient grace, God’s activity in our lives that draws us to a relationship with our Lord. For me, one of the best ways we put this belief into action is to baptize babies. In that act, we celebrate that this child is in God’s care, and we join with God in raising this child in the Way of God until the day comes when this child makes her or his personal profession of faith. We believe that no matter when someone is baptized, the person needs to be trained in the Way of life to which the Holy Spirit guides us.
In the last section of Acts 18, we are introduced to a man named Apollos, who “knew only the baptism of John” (v. 25). Two followers of Jesus, Priscilla and Aquila, help him to go deeper and further understand the “Way of God.” That connects us to our two passages for today. The writer of Mark’s Gospel describes the “baptism of John” as one focused on “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He goes on to tell us that John let the crowd know one was coming after him who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 19, we read of more believers who knew only of John’s baptism and were not aware of the Holy Spirit. Paul baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ, which connects them to the same Spirit that was in Jesus.
So, it is possible to repent of your sins and claim the name of Jesus, yet not allow the Holy Spirit to guide and change your way of living and relating to other people. From Galatians 5:22-23, reflect on what will be produced in your life when the Holy Spirit is guiding you. Are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” growing in your spirit, or is something else being produced in you? May all of us who claim that we represent Jesus Christ more fully reveal that we have been baptized by the Holy Spirit.