James Merritt - In The Body Experience
We're beginning a series today that I'm super pumped about. We're calling it "Unleashed". And we're gonna be talking about the Holy Spirit of God and the impact that He has both in the life of people who are believers and people who are not believers. As a matter of fact, today we're all going to begin looking at a very surprising way that the Holy Spirit relates both to people who do believe and people who don't. So if you're here today and you're a follower of Christ, you're gonna really learn something. If you're not a follower of Christ, you're gonna learn something.
As a matter of fact, believe this or not, what I'm going to talk to you about today I saw happen in front of my very eyes right out there in the lobby just about 30 minutes ago. I'll tell you about that in just a moment. But in the meantime, if you brought a copy of God's word or you got a smartphone, iPad, or whatever you might use, I want you to turn to a letter that was written about 2,000 years ago in a book called Corinthians. If you don't know where that is, you go to the New Testament. You start with the gospels. Go about five or six books over and you'll hit a book called 1 Corinthians. I want you to look at 1 Corinthians 12. And let me kind of set this up for you. This is a letter that a man by the name of Paul wrote to a church that he founded in Corinth about 2,000 years ago.
If you ever get to go with me to Greece, one of the places we get to visit, we get to visit the ancient ruins of Corinth. I've been there many times. Now they had a church there that Paul founded and it was some kind of a church. I mean if you know anything about the Corinthian church, you know what I'm talking about. They were dealing with all kinds of stuff. I mean weird stuff and kind of crazy stuff. And they couldn't get along and they were fighting and they had all these theological issues. Well one of the issues they were having was the Holy Spirit and understanding: How does the Holy Spirit operate? How does the Holy Spirit work in the church? And what does the Holy Spirit have to do with my life?
And so Paul takes a little bit of time right in the middle of this letter and he says, "Let me tell you about the Holy Spirit and how he relates to you, whether you're a believer or an unbeliever. And let me tell you how the Holy Spirit actually relates to the church". So in 1 Corinthians 12:12, this is what he tells us. "Just as a body, though one has many parts but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body, whether Jews or gentiles, slave or free, and we were all given the one Spirit to drink".
Now you notice that the word body is used there four times. As a matter of fact, beginning in verse 12 and going through verse 27, that word body is actually used 16 times. But Paul's not talking about this body. Paul's not talking about a physical body. He's talking about the spiritual body of Christ, or what you and I call the church. And in this passage he's talking particularly about being baptized into this body. The body called the church. Now to kind of set all this up, I wanna ask you a hypothetical question. I'm gonna set up a situation, a hypothetical situation. I'm gonna ask you two questions. And when you answer them I want you to really think it through. Don't answer it too quick because I'll tell you right now, they're trick questions.
I want you to imagine there's a man that's lying on his deathbed and he's about to die. And we've all heard the term deathbed conversion. I've witnessed a few of these in my life. Now I want you to imagine this man is just a few minutes from death and I want you to imagine that this man really does come to faith in Christ. It's not just fire insurance. He's not just kind of, you know, making sure he's got all the boxes checked. God's convicted him of his sin. He believes that Jesus died for his sins. He believes Jesus was raised from the dead. He knows he's a sinner. He needs to get right with God. And I want you to imagine this man is sincerely as anybody can be. He confesses his sin, repents of his sins. He gives his life to Jesus Christ. Jesus comes into his heart. He is born again. He is saved and then he dies.
First question. Did that man die as a member of the church? Answer yes or no. And then the second question is a little bit deeper. And that is okay, so, was that person baptized before he died? Now the reason why it's a trick question is because if you said yes to both of those questions you're only half right. If you said no to those questions, you're only half right. Because the answer is yes and no. So let me tell you why that's true. When that man died, he was not a member of a church but he was a member of the church. When that man died, he had been baptized in one sense but in one sense he had not been.
Let me tell you what I mean. When you read about the church in the New Testament, you may not realize it at times but the Bible actually talks about two kinds of churches. There is a visible church like the one we're meeting in right now, and then there is the invisible church that every Christ-follower around the world is a part of. So there's a physical church, there's a spiritual church. Or there's a local church and then there's a universal church. You may have already figured out by now, huh, if there are two kinds of churches then evidently there must be two kinds of baptisms. You're exactly right. There is a wet baptism that we witnessed a moment ago, performed with water, and there is a dry baptism, performed by the Holy Spirit.
There's a visible baptism that we can see and there's an invisible baptism that we cannot see. There's a physical baptism that occurs with someone's hands and there's a spiritual baptism that takes place in the heart. There's a baptism into a local body of believers, like our church, and then there is a baptism into a universal body of believers, which is made up of all true believers around the world. Now there's a big difference also between those two in that that the water baptism should take place after salvation but the spirit baptism takes place at salvation. Now we put a lot of emphasis, as you know, on baptism in our church. It's one of the great things that we celebrate. And we do celebrate it. We clap. We whistle. We shout. We get excited because it's the evidence of a transformed life.
But I wanna tell you as much as I value what happens in that little place up there on most Sundays of the year, I wanna talk to you about a far more important baptism than that. And that's this in the body experience that we're going to talk about today. Because the baptism of the Holy Spirit is so important, let me tell you how big a deal this is. Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit we can't have church, much less be a church. We can come together. We can do everything that we just did. But without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you can't be a church and you can't even have a church.
You say, "Why is that"? Because I wanna share with you three things that happens and only through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and it's why we are, if we truly are a part of God's church, it's why we are part of a church. And if you're not a part of the church, it's how you get into the church. Because let me just kind of clue you in. You can join this church on your own. You can't join His church without the Holy Spirit.
So what does the Holy Spirit do? Three things. Number one: The Holy Spirit baptizes us together into... and by the way, I did this on purpose... into the church. Now you notice I capitalized that word "the" right? I did that for a reason. Because you can be a member of a church but not be a member of the church. Water baptism will get you into a church but only the Spirit's baptism will get you into the church. And you receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit the moment you believe in Jesus. At the moment you give your life to Christ, the Spirit of God baptizes you into the body of Jesus, which we call His church. So again, let's read this verse. "For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body, whether Jews or gentiles, slave or free, and we were all given one spirit to drink".
Now here's what happened. Let me take you back. The first time the baptism of the Holy Spirit ever took place was at a time called Pentecost. It took place in Jerusalem about 50 days after Jesus had been crucified, raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven. If you're not familiar with it, go back to the book of Acts and you'll read about the birthday of the church. You'll read when the first church actually came into being. And here's what happened. Jesus dies on the cross. He comes back from the dead. He hangs around for about 50 days. He then ascends back into heaven. As He ascends into heaven, He sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes into the believers at that time and they all instantly become a part of the very first church.
So let me make sure you understand what I mean by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Because with all due respect to other brothers and sisters out there, there's a lot of confusion about what the Bible really teaches about this baptism. So let me just give you a little simple definition. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is when the Holy Spirit takes someone who is not a believer, leads them to become a believer, and then puts that believer into the true church of God at the moment that they believe. Or to put it an even simpler way, when you believe in the Son of God, you are baptized by the Spirit of God into the true church of God. That's it. When you believe in the Son of God, you are baptized by the Spirit of God into the true church of God.
Now let me tell you why this is so important. That's why you can be a part of a church, like this one, but not be a part of the church. You can be a part of a body without being a part of His body. You can be baptized in water without knowing Jesus but you cannot be baptized by the Holy Spirit until you do know Jesus. Wet baptism puts you into a church. Spiritual baptism puts you into the church. Now you go back to the Old Testament, you say, "Yeah I just noticed something". I know what you noticed. You never read about the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.
You say, "Yeah, I don't". Well why not? Because in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit never came into anybody. He would come upon people but then He would leave. In the New Testament it was totally different. That's why you don't read about anybody in the Old Testament ever being baptized into the church. You know why? There was no church. Why was there no church? Because the Holy Spirit had not yet come to do only the things that He can do. So understand you will never find in the New Testament a command to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Never. We're commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We're commanded not to quench the Holy Spirit. We're commanded not to grieve the Holy Spirit. But not one time does the Bible ever say, "Be baptized with the Holy Spirit".
Why is that true? Again, you can be physically baptized without being spiritually baptized. You can be spiritually baptized without being physically baptized. God's word does not command us to be baptized by the Spirit. What does the word of God command us to do? It doesn't command us to be baptized by the Spirit of God. It commands us to believe in the Son of God. Because when you believe in the Son of God, that's when you're baptized by the Spirit of God into the church of God. So I want you to read this verse again. I'm gonna kind of throw a key word in there. Okay?
Just as a body though one has many parts, now this is big, but all its many parts form one body. Who is the all that Paul's talking about there? He's talking about all the people in a church who have truly believed on Jesus. Because if you believe in the Son of God, you've been baptized by the Spirit of God into the church of God, and this is what I want you to hear. When it comes to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, unlike what some people have maybe heard or believed or were taught, you don't have to ask for it. You don't have to look for it. You don't have to beg for it. You don't have to pray for it. You don't have to wait for it. You don't have to agonize over it. You don't have to long for it. It is impossible to receive Jesus without receiving the Spirit. And it is impossible to receive the Spirit without receiving Jesus. Because the Holy Spirit is simply the presence of Jesus living in us.
So here's what I want you to understand. You don't get Jesus here and then sometime down the road you get the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When you get Jesus, you are baptized by the Spirit into the church. So when the Holy Spirit comes to live in you, at the same time He comes to live in you He puts you into Jesus. If you are a believer in Christ, you have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. So let me put it to you another way in case you haven't really totally grasped what I'm saying. Every believer's been baptized by the Holy Spirit because believing in Jesus and being baptized by the Holy Spirit happens exactly at the same time and they always go together. You cannot believe in the Son of God without being baptized by the Spirit of God. And you cannot be baptized by the Spirit of God without believing in the Son of God.
Romans 8:9 puts it this way. Here's what Paul wrote in another book. "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ". So if you're a true follower of Jesus, you may say, "Well gosh, I didn't know I'd been baptized by the Holy Spirit". Well you have. And you may say, "Well you know, I'm not always aware of the Spirit's presence". That's okay. Let me tell you this. You may not be always aware of the Spirit's presence but you wouldn't even be a Christian in the Spirit's absence. The Holy Spirit baptizes all believers into the church. So real simple. Somebody just comes up to you and says, "Hey, have you ever received the baptism of the Holy Spirit"? It's a real simple question to answer. If you've received Jesus, the answer is yes. So the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the church.
Now a lot of people think that's it, He's done. No, He's just getting started. Because not only does the Holy Spirit baptize us into the church. The Holy Spirit brings us together into the church. Now I want you to read verses 12 and 13 again and I'm gonna highlight a word, because I want you to really see what Paul is saying here. Paul said, "Just as a body though one has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body, whether Jews or gentiles, slave or free, and we were all given the one Spirit to drink".
You see there's one word that Paul keeps saying over and over and over and over. That's the word one. He uses it five times. He talks about the body of Christ being one. And why does he do that? Because before the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, here's what you had. You had a situation where it was impossible for Jewish or gentile or Greek or Samaritan believers to come together as one. They had no unity because they had no basis for unity. But when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost on that very first day, God did something the world's never ever seen before. God took people from different backgrounds and different races and different regions and different cultures and different languages and God made them one. It wasn't that people just came together. It wasn't that they were coerced together. The Holy Spirit connected them together by baptizing them into the church.
So on that one day, God did something that absolutely blew everybody's minds. He said look, I'm gonna take you from this region and this place and this color and this creed and this language and this culture and this class and this gender and I'm gonna make you into one body. Because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, let me tell you what that means. If we're all of us in this room who are true believers, and I don't know who is and who's not. But all of us in this room who are true believers, we're not just friends. We're not just buds. We don't just have fellowship. We are one family. Now listen. Listen. Listen. This is why I'm gonna make a radical statement, but I say it and I believe it as much as I believe anything I'll ever say from this platform except Jesus Christ is Lord.
If what I just told you is true, the only answer to racism is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That is the only answer. There is no other answer. I mean you tell me. You can try education. You can try legislation. You can try intimidation. But the only answer to racism is the regeneration by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. See, when you understand what I'm really preaching today then you get it, you say, "You know what? Christianity is about tearing down walls and building bridges, not building walls and burning bridges". That's why you can look at a church like ours, and this is why I love our church so much. This is why I feel sorry for every other pastor in the world, because I get to pastor the greatest church there is. Because when I walk back into our church, you know what I saw today? I see diversity. And I see variety. But above all, I see unity. Because we're part of one body because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Just look at us. I mean just look at us. We got males. We got females. Well what else can you have? Right? Well in this day and age, who knows? But listen. We've got males. We've got females. We've got Blacks. We've got Whites. We've got Asians. We've got Hispanics. We've got Democrats. We've got Republicans. We got liberals. We got conservatives. We got gators. We got dogs. I mean we got everything imaginable. But here's the amazing thing. We are not many. We are one. We don't just come together into a building. We don't just walk into a building together. We're brought together. We're baptized together. We're bound together in the body of Christ. It really is true.
We say this sometimes and I think we just kind of throw it out there. I am telling you the one thing I'm talking about today that unites us is far greater than anything that might ever divide us. Because we are one in the body of Jesus. The presence of Jesus is in us in the person of the Holy Spirit. And so the Holy Spirit of God baptizes us into the body and brings us together into the body. But He's not done yet. Because the reason why He baptizes us into the body and the reason why He brings us together into the body is because the Holy Spirit builds us together into the body. Now listen to this. Paul goes on to add one thing. I hadn't forgotten. I hadn't left it out. I'm with it, okay? He goes on to say this. "And," kind of a strange way to put it, "We were all given the one spirit to drink". Not spirits. Spirit. All right? We were all given the one Spirit, because some of you are going, "I'll drink to that". All right. We were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now let me tell you something. This is such a great thing he just said here. Now that's three words all given to drink. That's three words in the English language. It's one word in the Greek. You know what that word literally means in the Greek language? It means to irrigate. When you irrigate a piece of ground, you saturate it with water. What Paul is saying is if you are a believer, if you're a true believer in Jesus, if you really receive Jesus as your Lord and as your savior, he says you have been irrigated. You have been saturated by the Holy Spirit. You've not just been placed into the body of Christ but the Holy Spirit has been placed into you. If you're a believer right now in Jesus, let me tell you something. You are saturated with the Spirit of God. You are irrigated with the Spirit of God.
So here, let me tell you the good news. When you get Jesus, you get all the Holy Spirit you're ever gonna get. You don't have to go back and say, "Can I have a little bit more? I only got", nope. You got all of the Holy Spirit you're ever going to get. Now let me tell you why this is such a big deal and why I keep emphasizing, I've really said the same thing. I've just said it five different ways. You know why? Because there should always be unity in every church, regardless of its diversity and regardless of its variety, because we are all in His body and His Spirit is all in us. And if Jesus can never be divided from the Holy Spirit, then we should never be divided from each other. It is the Holy Spirit that baptizes us together. It's the Holy Spirit that brings us together. It is the Holy Spirit that builds us together.
So let me tell you how that works. The Holy Spirit has one purpose for my life and one purpose for yours. The Holy Spirit's major purpose and sole purpose in my life is not to make me a better preacher. It's not to make me a more famous preacher. It's not to make sure I pastor a bigger church. It's not to make sure I sell more books. It's not to make sure I get more speaking engagements. It has nothing to do with me. The Holy Spirit has one purpose for my life every day when I get up. And the Holy Spirit has one purpose for your life every day when you get up. You know what that purpose is? The Holy Spirit wants to draw me closer to Jesus. And the Holy Spirit wants to make me more like Jesus. You know why that's such a big deal? Because every day if I allow the Holy Spirit to bring me closer to Jesus, and if every day you let the Holy Spirit bring you closer to Jesus, that means the closer you get to Jesus and the closer I get to Jesus, the closer we get to each other.
And that's why I'm just not nearly as mesmerized and amazed and enamored with this out of the body experience as I am with this in the body experience. So let me tell you kind of what all this means. It doesn't matter if you've been confirmed, christened, catechized, baptized in a lake, a pond, or a baptistery. It doesn't even matter if you're a member of a church. If you have not been baptized by the Holy Spirit into His body and you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, none of the rest of that matters. We are one body. We've been baptized by one Spirit into this one body. And it's because we have had this in the body experience of believing in the Son of God that we have this in the body experience of being placed into the church of God.
Now I'm gonna talk more about this in just a second but this is what I wanna tell you. If there has ever been a day and if there's ever been a time when a nation out that door that we're walking into that's so fractured, so divided, and so tensed and so angry, if there's ever been a time when they ought to see a group of people that know how to come together and put everything, and put the kingdom and put the gospel and put Jesus above politics and everything else and see how people can love one another and be one in the midst of all this division, it ought to be now, it ought to be here, and it ought to be us. That's why whether you're a believer or not, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a big deal. And we ought to be thankful for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.