12 minutes | Dec 27th 2019

050 – What Baptism Did You Receive?

In our last Podcast, we met Apollos, an amazing preacher of Christ who had not quite obeyed the Gospel until Priscilla and Aquila were able to identify a doctrinal error which they heard when Apollos preached in the Synagogue at Ephesus. Paul was not with Priscilla and Aquila when this happened. But eventually, he arrives back at Ephesus and apparently, soon after his arrival, we are graced with another fascinating conversion story. It’s in Acts 19. Acts 19:1-7 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. So, Paul meets some “disciples.” At first, we might assume these are disciples of Christ but as we read further, we come to understand that, like Apollos, these are actually disciples of John the Baptist, who knew only the baptism of John. They state that explicitly. What Baptism Did You Receive? Now, this whole event begs the question, “Why does Paul make this radical jump in the discussion from “What Spirit did you receive?” to, “Then what baptism did you receive?” And, why did he ask this initial question to begin with; it feels a little out of the blue! Let’s think this through. How can we reconcile these two questions? What in the world was Paul thinking? First, it would be super weird if Paul met these men and just blurts out, “Did you hear about the Holy Spirit?” There obviously had to have been some other conversations; you know, things like “Hello, how are you?” “Have you heard about Jesus?” “Oh, you’re disciples. How’s the church at Ephesus doing, I am on my way there now?” “What, you don’t know about the church?” …things like that. Naturally, as Paul got to know these disciples, he concludes he is not speaking to people who know the completed doctrines of Christ. Something is missing which is what eventually provokes him to ask the first question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” He is not asking this question for no good reason. And what is the good reason? Paul is trying to determine if these people are true Christians. What is the point? At this point in our story, Paul connects the reception of the Holy Spirit with belief. He does not ask them if they received the Holy Spirit when they were baptized. Many anti-baptism proponents consider this a very important issue. They point to Paul’s question as proof that receiving the Holy Spirit is only associated with belief, not baptism. Unfortunately, they stop reading right there. Paul has a follow-up question which is inextricably linked to the first. When Paul hears their initial response, “We don’t know about a Holy Spirit,” a flag goes up! If they do not know there is a Holy Spirit, then they can’t possibly have the Holy Spirit. This means they are not saved and their sins have never been forgiven by God. But Paul does not immediately act on this hunch. He needs more concrete evidence. Beginning with the word “then,” he connects his second question to the first, thus connecting baptism with receiving the Holy Spirit. “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism.” They replied. The Full Gospel Includes Water Baptism Now, Paul understands clearly, “These are disciples of John who have never heard the full Gospel,” and he goes on to complete it for them. He presents the rest of the story and they respond appropriately by being baptized. ...
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