Saturday, April 10, 2010

One Baptism

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. Acts 19:1-7 NIV

I always wondered why Paul asked those disciples in Ephesus if they had received the Spirit when they believed. He must have noticed something. Was it that they did not speak in tongues when they prayed? Or was it some kind of discernment that we don’t seem to have anymore? Or was it that they did not have the fruit of the spirit? Whatever the reason, Paul noticed that they were disciples and that they did not have the Spirit.

The next question is even more mind boggling to a Pentecostal like me. Upon getting a negative answer to his question, negative in the sense that they had never heard of the Holy Spirit, Paul asks them about the baptism they received. How had they not heard of the Holy Spirit? Why would they have heard of the Holy Spirit if they had received the proper baptism? Was it because in the new believers baptism it was done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Doesn’t say. Or was it because the Holy Spirit was expected to come upon those who were baptized in Jesus’ name? I think so. This would fit all the New Testament’s record of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in both Luke’s historical record and Paul’s letters.

The Holy Spirit was promised to believers, all believers. Peter’s Pentecostal address makes the reception of the Spirit upon repentance and baptism very clear. And when at the house of Cornelius those who were already baptized in the Spirit could not be denied baptism in water. And at Samaria when the Holy Spirit did not come upon any of those who believed the gospel and were baptized, it was so serious that the Apostles were sent for from Jerusalem in order to remedy the matter.

In my view receiving the Spirit and receiving water baptism are conceptually two halves of the same coin. This is Paul’s “one baptism”. Now this following passage also makes more sense:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 NIV

Jesus is our prototype. We are to imitate Jesus. When Jesus received water baptism, and upon coming up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came down upon him bodily as a dove. This is our pattern. When we are baptized we too are to receive the outpouring of the Spirit. Water baptism and Spirit baptism are forever conceptually linked.

But being linked is different than being the same thing. Acts shows us over and over that they are not the same thing. When we come up out of the waters of baptism we are to come into a new life. As Paul wrote ”We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Rom 6:4 NIV An new life in the Spirit.

That is what our new life is all about! A new life today as well as forever!

So I ask, did you receive the Spirit around when you believed? You were supposed to. This reception was to be the kind of thing that would be noticed if you had not received. Did you speak in tongues and/or prophesy? Did you thrill like the Ethiopian eunuch when he went his way rejoicing? What happened? Nothing? Then drink deep of the Holy Spirit. Put down your unbelief and receive what is yours in all its fullness.

1 Cor 12:13 (my translation)We were all baptized in one Spirit for one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Drink deep!

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