“I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8).
There is a vast difference between baptism with water and baptism with the Holy Spirit as the above verse clearly states.
Water baptism is purely a man’s work from God to indicate a certain heavenly process that he has no authority over. Hence, Jesus too didn’t concern Himself with it. He let His disciples do it. It is not a cleansing related to the body, much less the soul. We ourselves know that dipping in mere water brings no real cleansing. But when it is done, it is with a notion. John performed such baptism – an act that is a sign for something that took place, viz. repentance. John’s baptism was never to bring salvation to men – on this we can all agree. It is a significantly lesser act, not greater than something John was not given to do. It thus made him a forerunner to Christ.
Jesus, on the other hand, is said to baptize (immerse) believers in the Holy Spirit. The giving of the Spirit is never left to the hands of any human being primarily because He is God. Even if one is authorized to it, it is because Jesus personally does it through them; for only He can give the Spirit. What Jesus does is give a new and powerful basis for the inner man of the newly penitent person. His or her heart is opened up and made pure by the righteousness credited by faith so their bodies are accommodating for the Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit takes greater precedence than water baptism. This truth many church-goers do not consider. Water baptism cannot make a person live for Christ, i.e. it cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit in him, but the Spirit does. Baptism with the Spirit is independent of baptism with water as gathered from the above verse. So, if one is basing his or her salvation on water baptism alone, they are yet to acknowledge the work Jesus performs. For while water does not cleanse, the Spirit lives in that which has been cleansed (made righteous) and is able to keep it for God.
Now, when one is baptized with the Spirit, he or she is surrounded or swallowed up by the Spirit just as one is swallowed up by water when immersed in it. Then everything of the Spirit as God said can take place in and through them according to His will. It is as if they are wetted in the Spirit. They are recognized by the Spirit, i.e. by His work in them.
Baptism with water helps (1 Pet. 2:21). It becomes a stamp or mark to a believer’s safe journey to eternal life by the resurrection of the Christ; for it derives its substance from the faith that has been credited as righteousness (or repentance). It acts as an appeal to God that the conscience which has been made new never ceases to be. Therefore, it is also an outward act. Eight persons were brought safely through the water (v. 20) to live. But baptism with water corresponds to the resurrection of Christ that brings a believer to the life God promised. So, it is not the one that saves, but the resurrection of Christ, which a believer confesses at the time of receiving Jesus as his or her personal Savior (Rom. 10:9, 10). It is merely a sign and in this regard it saves.