WHAT IS THE LORD’S BAPTISM?
What is the Lord’s baptism? Clearly the baptism that the Lord referred to was not the baptism at the river Jordan, because that was over. The baptism that the Lord was about to go through was forthcoming, referring to His death on the cross. In Luke 12:50 the Lord said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am pressed until it is accomplished!” In his book The Release of the Lord, Mr. Austin-Sparks said that this refers to the Lord’s desire to release Himself. The Lord was yearning to release Himself. The word pressed means confined or constricted. Christ had a sanctified body in which all of God’s riches were embodied. Such glorious riches were bound by the flesh, and how constricted and confined He was! How wonderful it would be if these riches would be released! It seems as if He was saying that God’s life was too confined and constricted within Him, and that it would be wonderful if it could be released. On the one hand, the cross was for redemption of sins. On the other hand, it was for the release of life. God released His life through the cross. The Lord desired that this life be released. Before crucifixion, however, such a life was constricted within Him. Hence, the basic and primary meaning of this baptism is the release of life.
Following this, the Lord said that once God’s life was released, it would be kindled like fire on the earth. What would be the result of this baptism? It would result in something like a fire, something that would bring in division rather than peace on earth (v. 51). Once a fire touches something, it burns. From that time on, houses would be against houses, believers would be against unbelievers, those who have life would be against those who do not have life, and those with the fire would be against those without the fire. This is what it means to be baptized with the Lord’s baptism. Once life is released, let go, and unleashed, there will be division. Wherever this life goes, it will not bring peace, but strife. Some know the Lord and some do not know the Lord, and there will be strife. Once life enters a house, there will be striving in the house. Those who have passed through this baptism are immediately separated from those who have not passed through it. The Lord was saying, “I am going to the cross to release My life. This will bring in strife. Can you handle this? Do you like this?” First there is death, and then there is the release of life. This is baptism. The result of this baptism is division. Dead men cannot strive with one another; only those who have life can strive. The Lord’s word points to the fact that death operates in us and life operates in others (2 Cor. 4:12). The Lord’s baptism was the removal of the outward shell and the liberation of His life through death. This is what we are doing today. We must break the outward shell before the life within us can flow out.
When we were at Custom Lane [Translator’s note: In Foochow at the base of Kuling Mountain], I mentioned that life cannot be released unless the outward man is first broken. Our outward man has constricted His life and restricted it from flowing out. We must realize that if the outward man is not broken, life cannot flow out. Once a man’s outward shell is broken, he becomes very approachable and life flows out easily. Otherwise, life is bound; man’s spirit is not released, and life does not flow freely. It is one thing to expound 2 Corinthians 4:12. It is altogether another thing to give others a touch of life. Many people think that this verse is merely a teaching. Let me repeat: Unless your outward man is broken, no life will flow out. Once a man’s outward shell is broken, he becomes very approachable. This is like a grain of wheat that falls into the ground; the life within breaks forth from its shell and spontaneously grows out of the opening. This is what the Lord said in John 12:24: “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” When a grain of wheat falls to the ground, the shell breaks, and the life is released. Following this the Lord said, “He who loves his soul-life loses it; and he who hates his soul-life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there also My servant will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (vv. 25-26). If a man wants to save his “shell,” he will not be able to release the life. Once a man loses his “shell,” he will bear much fruit.
(Authority and Submission, Chapter 18, by Watchman Nee)