32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
Verses 29 and 30 rest on verses 32-34. The author John now argued that the Baptizer formally introduced the Messiah through His baptism.
And John bore witness:
The author John now gave a capsule of what John the Baptist witnessed about the Messiah’s baptism. John’s baptism was different than the Messiah’s.
“I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove,
The gospel of John does not record the baptism of Jesus; it records the major reason why He was baptized. All the synoptic gospels were available for John’s readers at this time, so they did not need it recited again here.
John’s witness was that he saw the Holy Spirit come upon Jesus to officially anoint Him for His Messiahship at His baptism.
The “dove” was a physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit (Is 11:2). Thus, the dove was a figure for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came “like” a dove. We cannot see a spirit, so God offered a visual effect. The sign of a dove gives a picture of the reality that was the Holy Spirit coming upon Christ.
and it remained on him.
The Spirit descending and remaining on Jesus was supernatural proof that He was the Messiah. John the Baptist did not understand who Jesus was until His baptism.
I myself did not know him,
John did not know that the Father appointed Jesus as the Messiah until God revealed it to him (Jn 1:31). It must have been a great shock to John to know that his cousin was the Messiah, God in flesh.
but he who sent me
The “he” here is the Father. The Father told the Baptizer in advance what he was about to experience. There was no arbitrary injection of John’s thoughts about this; it was a God-given revelation.
to baptize with water said to me,
John was about to witness the dawning of the messianic era upon the world.
‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain,
The descending and remaining of the Holy Spirit on Jesus was a special and permanent anointing of His Messiahship. No anointed one has ever existed or will exist like this one. When John saw the Spirit descend on Jesus, he knew that Jesus was the Messiah.
this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
The Messiah would baptize “with the Holy Spirit” when He came. Jesus was anointed with the Spirit and He would baptize others with the Spirit. There is a contrast between John’s baptism with water and Jesus’ baptism with the Spirit.
The baptism of the Spirit upon Christ and the baptism of the Spirit upon members of the church are two different things.
Much later, on the day of Pentecost, the baptism of the Spirit came upon Christians—the Holy Spirit baptizing believers into a “body,” bringing in the new economy called the “church” (Ac 1:5; 2:1-3). This event launched the church as a new way of God’s dealing with people.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit for Christians first occurred at Pentecost (Ac 1:5; 11:15, 16). After the launching of the church, the baptism of the Spirit became true for all believers (Ac 1:5; 1 Co 12:13).