"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13).
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
We begin our subject with these two verses and also would like to consider John 3:1-10 where Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, regarding the new birth.
Jesus makes it clear in verses 3 and 5 that a man can not see nor enter into the kingdom of God apart from being born again or born of the Spirit.
Now, Jesus never used any expressions in any of His recorded conversations which were foreign to those to whom He was talking. He talked to the woman at the well of living water. She had come for water. He spoke to the fishermen of fishing for men and they left their nets to follow him. From these two examples we can conclude that the expression of being "born again" was one in use by the Jews, and especially the rulers of the Pharisees.
Mr. Wesley says, "The expression 'being born again', was not first used by our Lord in his conversation with Nicodemus. It was well known before that time, and was in common use among the Jews when our Savior appeared among them. When an adult heathen was convinced that the Jewish religion was of God, and desired to join therein, it was the custom to baptize him first, before he was admitted to circumcision. And when he was baptized he was said to be 'born again': by which they meant that he who was before a child of the devil was now adopted into the family of God, and accounted one of his children" (sermon #45, §II, ¶3).
Nicodemus, being a teacher in Israel, should have understood this expression; however, he asks "how can this be?" thinking entirely upon the natural birth.
It might be pointed out that water baptism is fore-shadowed by the various rites in the Old Testament under the Laws of Purification with all the washings. In fact, the word comes from the word used to relate to washing for purification.
John the Baptist evidently recognized that water baptism alone could never change the nature of man, for in Matthew 3:11 he refers to Christ as One who will "baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."
From what Jesus told Nicodemus, we would have to say that it takes more than being born of water (that is, water baptism), to bring about the relationship between man and God, which God has provided for. It must take a spiritual baptism, therefore, to change man's nature and relate him to the death and resurrection of Christ. Water baptism alone would only associate a natural man with Christ in name only, while a spiritual baptism makes us a partaker of the divine nature.
From what has already been said, I suppose it can be seen that the expression of "being born of the Spirit" could just as easily be stated "being baptized by the Spirit." Other expressions, such as "filled with," "received," and so forth when referring to the Holy Spirit, relate to the same experience.
To those who would object to my statements thus far, let me say to you that you need to do some studying in the Word. Others may need to more than that. I would challenge them to measure their lives by the Word. It just could be that they have never experienced the "new birth" which Jesus was talking about.
To answer any question as to what this does to a second work of grace, which is referred to by most as "being filled with the Spirit" or "the baptism of the Holy Ghost," my answer is "absolutely nothing."
What we are dealing with is the new birth and the change affected in our lives by the Holy Ghost as He quickens and purifies us. It is true that it is the work of the Holy Ghost in an experience of entire sanctification, but it is also true that there is a more thorough work wrought in the life of a believer in the new birth than the average "holiness" preacher preaches. In fact, most of the Scriptures used to prove a second work, actually refer to the first work. In view of this, if we would indeed rightly divide the word of truth, we would not have as many shallow converts, many of whom are urged to seek a second work, in order that they might be above sin. The truth of it is, we have many professing two works, and some even three, but enjoying none, for they are void of the Spirit of Christ.
The expression we hear used so often in our camp meetings and revivals across the country "holiness or hell" is true, but not in the sense in which it is used. To fail to clarify the expression leaves the listeners with the impression that the experience which they have is not sufficient to enable them to live above sin. According to Mr. Wesley, true "holiness" or sanctification begins at the same moment we are justified, and while there does come a time when we feel a principle within, contrary to God, we have also the power within to conquer; to mortify the deeds of the body ("The Scriptural Way of Salvation," sermon #43).
Romans 8:9 says that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" and in verses 15-16, reference is made to the witness of the Spirit with our spirit. To those who use the expression that in the new birth the Spirit is "with us" and in the second work "in us," I ask, please explain to me what Paul referred to in Galatians 4:4-6, where he says "God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father." Also, Romans 5:5, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
Fletcher, in comparing the reformation of a Pharisee with the regeneration of a Christian, said that regeneration can be effected by nothing less than a baptism of the Holy Ghost, and a real participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus (Works, 4:111). Again, he states further, "You shall be baptized by the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins, and justified freely by faith" (4:115).
In the book of Acts, we have an account of a centurion named Cornelius, who was praying to God, and asking for help. In Acts 10, we find him assembled with his household and while Peter preaches on "believing on Jesus and receiving remission of sins" (clearly a message on repentance), the Holy Ghost fell upon them. They then received a water baptism. In Acts 11, where Peter is relating this event, verse 14, "who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved" (read also verses 15-18). The context here definitely relates the baptism of the Holy Ghost in the case of Cornelius to repentance unto life, another way of expressing the new birth. Please tell me how this can be used to illustrate a second work of grace, without forcing the Scriptures to mean differently than is recorded.
If those who claim to be "Wesleyan" in doctrine would carefully study Mr. Wesley's sermons on the new birth, Mr. Clarke's comments on John 3, and Mr. Fletcher's Works and sermons on the new birth, and come back into line with the Word, there would be a vast change in our "holiness" churches, both in doctrine and practice.
Much more could possibly be said on this subject, but I leave this to those who are more capable, with this remark: Please do not cast this aside, but if it raises questions, please ask them, and start doing some serious thinking and studying of the Word.