Modern Christians tend to treat baptism as a mere initiation rite through which the Holy Spirit is presumed by faith to indwell the believer in an automatic way that requires no confirming experience. But Paul’s spirituality is far more mystical than that, far more experiential than most churches seem to realize.
For example, consider these 2 neglected aspects of his theology of baptism:
(1) “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27).”
The experience of being clothed with Christ warrants this astounding mystical claim: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (2:19-20).”
Baptized believers who qualify as “children of God” and are clothed with the Spirit are thus presumed to live divinely guided lives: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God (Romans 8:14).” It is as we experience the divinely imparted “fruit of the Spirit” that we are empowered to “be led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, 25).”
(2) Paul links baptism with the impartation of the indwelling Holy Spirit: “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body…and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).” Drinking the Spirit is experiential language. Paul implicitly contrasts being drunk with wine with being intoxicated by the experience of the arrival of the Holy Spirit: “Do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).” In 1 Corinthians 12:13 baptism is presumed to be accompanied by immersion in the Spirit, an immersion that empowers us to function as the eyes, hands, and feet of Christ’s Body through the operation of spiritual gifts.
In my next planned post I will document just how experiential Paul intends the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to be.