Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Acts 19:1-7 Re-baptism of the Holy Ghost

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/10/09- Acts 19:1-7
1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 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." 3 So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. 4 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." 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

Calvin abridged: The Church in Ephesus was confirmed and built up by Paul’s return, but also the Holy Spirit was at work there, transforming rough and new disciples. It is not known if these disciples were residents of Ephesus or not, but we do know they were Jews who had received John’s baptism. 2 “Did you receive…” Paul was not speaking of the Spirit in terms of regeneration, but of the special gifts that edify the Church. Paul asked them this question as a test and a sign. Receiving the Holy Spirit was a sign and token of belief. In Galatians 3:2 Paul asks a similar question- did they “hear of the Spirit through the law or by faith?” (Gal. 3:2). “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit”- How could this be since Jews knew the prophets speak everywhere of the Spirit in scripture? Paul was not speaking of the general existence of the Spirit, but of the visible graces by which God beautified the kingdom of his Son. They were saying that they did not know that God gave such gifts. Paul wanted them to not stay in John’s teaching alone, for John’s purpose was to prepare disciple for Christ. Paul wanted them to be convicted of their ignorance that they might desire to go forward. Paul did not flatter them so that they would remain complacent, but he shows where they were lacking in order to encourage them to grow. John’s baptism was a sign of repentance and remission of sins, and our baptism today does not differ from it at all, except that Christ’s death and resurrection and our salvation have been revealed to us. Baptism is a sign of regeneration, renovation- both purging of sin and newness of life which flow from Christ alone. We grasp this gift of Christ by faith, so the outward sign of baptism does not take away anything from the grace of Christ. 5- “they were baptize in the name of Jesus”- Because they believed the baptism of John differed from Christ (which it did not), they were baptized again. That this is not necessary is seen in that both baptisms were signs of the same repentance to the same God, the same adoption, and the same newness of life. John’s baptism was the baptism Christ received and the visible sign of the Spirit came upon him (Mt. 3:15). Christ did not re-baptize John’s disciples who followed him. The laying on of hands is how they received the Holy Spirit- so it is a sacrament- but a temporary sacrament. I do not dislike the laying on of hands, as there are examples of it in the prophets of old. However, the laying on of hands (and worse the adding of the anointing of oil to baptism) is not necessary for baptism as if it made the sacrament better. The laying on of hands, unlike baptism and the supper, is not a perpetual command for us.

Thoughts: In the 1970’s when the charismatic/Pentecostal movement was very strong in the United States, a co-worker of mine at the grocery store told me that I needed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He referred me to this passage to say that my baptism was not sufficient. He was saying that if anyone really believed, they would speak in tongues. But such rationale takes a one-time example and makes it the rule of everyone. However, clearly Paul inferred that not everyone speaks in tongues when he asked the rhetorical question (I Cor 12:30; 14:5) “Do all speak in tongues? Do all prophesy?” Romans 8 indicates that we cannot separate Christ in us from the Spirit’s presence in us. So if we believe, our bodies are the “temple of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). When Christ was baptized, the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove. When we are baptized, the Spirit also comes. We do not need to be re-baptized in the Holy Ghost-as the Spirit comes (invisibly usually) when we are baptized. There was a time when I thought re-baptism with water was a terrible practice- that I would say is like re-circumcision. The Presbyterian Book of Order discourages it, and instead asks us to remember our baptism- which we do in our church each January (people come forward and take a marble out of a water-filled bowl). I encouraged my daughter to join the Baptist church she attended with her husband (who had grown up as a member there). To do so, she had to be re-baptized. She had been baptized by Dr. John Leith who was a prominent Presbyterian professor and author, and she didn’t want to do it. Yet it seemed that this was the church to which she was called. I told her they should worship together and a little extra water wouldn’t hurt. Baptism is a thing people have fought over. But to Paul and the early church, it wasn’t a big deal- he just baptized them again. There is no evidence that Peter, John, James, and Andrew (who were known disciples of John that became disciples of Jesus) were baptized again. Apollos confessed he had received John’s baptism in the chapter before (Acts 18:25) but he was not baptized again. Certainly there should be limits to what defines baptism and the supper, but arguing over such things is almost a throwback to the concerns of outward things of the Pharisees. Baptism is a gift and a command given to us by Christ. While it should be done with reverence as a sacrament (thus rules come into existence- about mode, manner, and age), in the Bible there was more flexibility than there is in the Church today. Today, we ought to remember our baptism, which is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s baptism.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you that you are alive and well and inside of us- convicting, inspiring, comforting, guiding, helping us. Thank you for our baptism that is a reminder that we are yours- signed, sealed and soon to be delivered.

No comments:

Post a Comment