Ministry Resources

The Spirit-Baptized Life

Author: Dr. Craig Keener

What does the Spirit-baptized life look like? Jesus is the model, and Mark presents him as such in his opening verses.

The Gospel of Mark mentions God’s Spirit explicitly only six times, but half of them appear in Mark’s introduction (Mark 1:8-13), where he introduces some of his central themes. (That is what ancient introductions often did.) Mark’s other uses emphasize the Spirit’s work in empowering Jesus for exorcism (Mark 3:29-30), Old Testament prophets to speak God’s message (Mark 12:26) or Jesus’ witnesses to speak his message (Mark 13:11).

The Spirit-Baptizer

In the introduction, John the Baptist announces the mighty one who will baptize others in the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8); this Spirit-baptizer is Jesus of Nazareth. Immediately after this announcement, we see Jesus baptized and the Spirit coming on him (Mark 1:9-10). The Spirit-baptizer thus gives us a model of what the Spirit-baptized life will look like, for he himself receives the Spirit first. That is why what the Spirit does next appears all the more stunning: the Spirit thrusts Jesus into the wilderness for conflict with the devil (Mark 1:12-13). The Spirit-filled life is not a life of ease and comfort, but of conflict with the devil’s forces!

The rest of the Gospel of Mark continues this pattern. Shortly after Jesus emerges from the wilderness, he must confront an evil spirit in a religious gathering (Mark 1:21-27). Throughout the rest of the Gospel, Jesus continues to defeat the devil by healing the sick and driving out demons (cf. Mark 3:27), while the devil continues to strike at Jesus through the devil’s religious and political agents. In the end, the devil manages to get Jesus killed–but Jesus triumphs by rising from the dead.

What About Us?

In the same way, Jesus expects his disciples to heal the sick and drive out demons (Mark 3:14-15; 4:40; 6:13; 9:19, 28-29; 11:22-24), and also to join him in suffering (Mark 8:34-38; 10:29-31, 38-40; 13:9-13). His disciples seemed more happy to share his triumphs than his sufferings, but the Gospel of Mark emphasizes that we cannot share his glory without also sharing his suffering. That lesson remains as relevant for modern disciples as for ancient ones!

Of course, Jesus is different from us. In light of the Old Testament, where only God can pour out God’s Spirit, Jesus’s role of Spirit-baptizer identifies him as divine. That is why John the Baptist feels himself unworthy to carry even his sandals—to take the posture of a servant–though the Old Testament prophets were called “servants of the Lord.” Nevertheless, Jesus also identifies with us fully in our humanity, and Mark shows that he depended on the Spirit’s power. Jesus both empowers us and shows us what a Spirit-empowered life can look like.

For other posts about the Spirit and life in the Spirit, see (The fruit of the Spirit — Galatians 5:22-23); (How can we hear the Holy Spirit accurately?); (In God’s presence—John 14—16); (As the Father sent me, I send you—John 20:21); (“The down payment”); and other posts in the file marked “Holy Spirit”

For Craig’s video lectures about the Spirit, see (for short ones): (Pentecost); (Water Imagery in the Gospel of John)

For a longer one: (Luke’s Theology of Mission in Acts)

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