2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Spirit since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit.
You will observe that Paul did not say,
"Did ye receive the Holy Spirit to enable you to believe?'
If Paul had been indoctrinated with popular theology about the Spirit he would have asked them, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit to enable you to believe?" because the theory is that we have to receive something called "the Holy Spirit" or "grace" in order to enable you to believe. But the apostle says, "Have ye received the Holy Spirit since ye believed?" showing that they believed, and that men are capable of the belief of the truth without being endued with something they call "Holy Spirit," apart from the Word.
....The truth is contained in the Word of God-in the writings of Moses, the prophets, the Psalms, the discourses of Jesus, and the discourses and writings of the apostles, for, as Jesus said,
"My words, they are Spirit and they are life."
... in the days of the apostles, with the exception of the Day of Pentecost and the transaction that occurred in the house of Cornelius, the Spirit was not imparted to men to enable them to believe, or before they believed.
We are told in John 7:37,
"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, 'If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink; he that believeth on me out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.'"
Then John says,
"But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, besides that, Jesus was not yet glorified."
So that you see that all that believed the truth before the glorification of Jesus, believed that truth without having any abstract physical spiritual operation upon their minds or their hearts to enable them to believe. The Holy Spirit was given to those that believed, those who obeyed the gospel, and therefore Peter, when he addressed the Sanhedrin, told them they were witnesses of the truth; "and so," said he,
"is the Holy Spirit that is given to all them that obey Jesus."
Thus the Spirit is given to the obedient, not to enable them to believe, but because they had believed and obeyed the truth; and it was not given till Jesus was glorified. So that they believed the truth because of the evidence that was submitted to their understandings, and it was that that convinced them of the truth. The power of faith is in the evidence credibly reported. If it is not credibly reported, of course it is not reliable. But, being satisfied of the reporters, that they were honest and true, then faith rests upon the testimony of credible witnesses. And the power of faith is in the testimony.
The Christadelphian, Jan 1888
3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Then the apostle says unto them, "Have ye received the Holy Spirit since ye believed?" And they said unto him, "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit." Now, that is a very incorrect rendering, because the question Paul asked them was not whether they knew of, or believed in, the existence of a Holy Spirit, but whether they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed. Their answer was a direct answer to Paul's question; and it ought to be rendered-
"We have not so much as heard whether the Holy Spirit is received."
That surprised Paul that they should be believers, and not know that the Spirit was received by believers. He says to them, "Unto" (or into) "what, then, were ye baptised?" This surprised him; he could not imagine what had been the subject matter of their belief; and it is manifest that he knew they were baptised on some basis; and he asks them,
"Into what then were ye baptised?"
It struck him forcibly that they could not have been baptised into the Christian baptism, and yet be ignorant that the Holy Spirit was received by believers. Therefore, in astonishment, he asks them, "Into what then were ye baptised" (or immersed)? And they said, "Unto" (or into) "John's baptism." Well, this solved the whole mystery-Paul saw what was the reason of their not knowing that the Holy Spirit was received.
Then said Paul, "John verily baptised" (the word "with" is inserted here in the common version).
"John verily baptised the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe."
-Here the word in the original is the same as that in the 3rd verse, rendered "unto"-
"That they should believe on (or into) him that should come after him;" then Paul adds "That is, into Christ Jesus." "When they heard this they were baptised."
Here the same word is used in the original, and is here rendered 'in.' "There were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus," Now, John had said, "I baptise you with water unto repentance"-I baptise you in water in the baptism of repentance,
"but he that cometh after me is mightier than I - he shall baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
You will observe then that there are three baptisms alluded to here. First, John's baptism; secondly, the baptism of the Holy Spirit; and thirdly, the baptism of fire. The baptism of John was a baptism based upon the belief that the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One was about to make his appearance.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those who believed in Jesus as the Christ that had already come. And the baptism of fire was that outpouring of the indignation of Yahweh on the Jewish State which destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple, and broke up the whole Jewish fabric of society; that age, in fact, which had waxed old and was caused to vanish away.
It is that that Peter speaks of in 2 Pet. 3., a baptism of fire which came on the whole heavens and earth and dissolved them. So that there were these three baptisms. But in relation to us, and in relation to the name of Jesus Christ, whereby we obtain remission of sins, there is one baptism, and that one baptism into the name of Jesus is neither a baptism of spirit nor fire, for the spirit is not now poured out.
The baptism of fire has been developed in relation to the Jewish State; but the fiery baptism which will wind up the times of the Gentiles, when they come to an end, that is yet future. But in the intermediate period between the apostolic age and the coming of Christ in power and glory there is but one baptism, and that is the immersion of a believer
"in the things of the Redemption and the name of Jesus Christ, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit".
The Christadelphian, Jan 1888
4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
The believers of Acts 19:4, though "baptised unto John's baptism," required baptism into Christ, because the time had come for baptism into Christ to be required.
The work of God had advanced a stage since the preaching of John, of which these persons were unaware; and just as it was necessary for those who had submitted to the divine institution of circumcision to conform to the new divine institution of baptism when they became aware of it, so those who had submitted to John's baptism were required to submit to baptism into Christ when the name of Christ, as a saving institution, had been fully developed by death, resurrection and ascension.
Christ was not preached in this way till Christ's departure.
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
"Jesus made and baptised more disciples than John"
Those so baptised would not be John's disciples; for the baptism administered by Jesus during his ministry (by the instrumentality of the twelve) was identical with John's as regarded its object.
The people were by both called upon to repent in prospect of the Kingdom of God, and to be baptised for the remission of sins. It was only after the resurrection of Christ that his name was placed in the institution in a way that led to the complete eclipse of John's baptism.
The subjects of the baptism practised by the disciples of Christ would be... "the mass of Israel in that wicked generation." As for the apostles themselves (who had been baptised with John's baptism), we have no information that they were re-immersed on becoming associated with Christ. Christ chose them on the basis of John's baptism, to which he himself had submitted. It was a time of transition.
His direct choice of them (within the circle of an obedience which they and he had rendered to what God had enjoined through John) might lead him to dispense with the re-immersion which Paul deemed necessary for the Ephesian twelve (Acts 19.).
Possibly, the feet-washing at his last meeting with them, before he suffered, had a special significance in this connection. He seems to intimate that it was essential for their continued connection with him (John 13:8).
It may have been intended to answer the purpose for them that was served by re-immersion in the case of the Ephesian disciples. The whole subject is greatly simplified by remembering the authority of Christ as Lord and Master, to make such appointments as he pleased.
The Christadelphian, Jan 1886
19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it 50 000 pieces of silver.
Cast away to the owls and to the bats the traditions of men and the prejudices indoctrinated into thy mind by their means; make a whole burnt offering of their creeds, confessions, catechisms and articles of religion; and, after the example of the Ephesian disciples, hand over your books of curious theological arts, and burn them before all" (Acts 19:19).
These mountains of rubbish have served the purposes of a dark and barbarous age; the word, the word of the living God alone, can meet the necessities of the times. Let the example of the noble minded Bereans be ours. They searched the Scriptures daily to see if the things taught by the apostle were worthy of belief; "therefore they believed" (Acts 17:12). If then not even the preaching of an apostle was credited unaccompanied by Scriptural investigation, is it not infinitely more incumbent on us that we should bring to a like test the opinions and precepts of the uninspired and fallible professional theologists of our day?
Let us believe nothing that comes from the pulpit, the altar or the press, not demonstrated by the grammatical sense of the Scriptures. Let us be contented with nothing less than a "thus it is written" and a "thus saith the Lord;" for He has laid it down in His law that no one is worthy of belief who does not speak after this rule. "To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them." (Isaiah 8:20). If then their light be darkness, how great is that darkness!
The Scriptures can do everything for us in relation to the light. This is known, felt and keenly appreciated by all interested in the support of error. Hence, in the days of Diocletian, one of the pagan predecessors of Constantine, a decree was issued commanding the surrender of all copies of the Holy Scriptures, for it was found that so long as they obtained circulation the Christian doctrine could never be suppressed.
The popes, as deadly, and more insidious, enemies of the Truth than the pagan Roman emperors, followed the example of Diocletian. The Bible and popery are as mutually hostile as the light of the sun and the thick darkness of Egypt that might be felt. But it is not paganism and popery alone that are practically hostile to a free and untrammelled investigation of the Word of God.
The protestant world, while it deludes itself with the conceit that "the Bible, the Bible alone, is the religion of protestants" -- while it spends its thousands for its circulation among the nations in their native tongues -- is itself hostile to the belief and practice of what it proclaims. "The Bible alone is not its religion; for, if it were, why encumber its professors with the "Common Prayer," "Thirty nine Articles" and all the other "notions" of a similar kind?
To believe and practice the Bible alone would be a sufficient ground of exclusion from all "orthodox" churches.
Elpis Israel 1.1.
27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
Incursions of the Goths upon the Roman Empire during the Fourth Seal
Around AD 250-260
In their third naval expedition they made their appearance among the numerous islands of the Aegean Sea, and at length anchored in the Piraeus, five miles distant from Athens, which they sacked. A general conflagration blazed out at the same time in every district of Greece; and the temple of Diana at Ephesus, was finally burned by the Goths. It would be interesting to us to know something of the affairs of Christ's ecclesia there while these wild beasts of the fourth seal were doing the work of Death and Hades in their midst. It would give them no pain to see this "wonder of the world" in flames.
They might regret its destruction as a work of art; but, as a stronghold of superstition, in which Jupiter's image that fell from heaven, was enthroned, and revered by all Asia and the world, its destruction would afford them much satisfaction. It had been seven times destroyed before, but from this last catastrophe it never recovered; for he that was destined "to conquer" was still "conquering," and consummating the work begun by Paul, who persuaded and turned away much people, not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, saying, that they be no gods which are made with hands (Acts xix. 26).
To them, as to us of the household of faith, the destruction of the temple of Diana, and those other temples of St. Peter's at Rome, and St. Paul's at London, not from an architectural, but from a scriptural standpoint, would be a glorious earnest of the approaching downfall of the several superstitions they represent. Ephesus was once famous for the bright lamp burning with oil of the spirit in her midst but Nikolaitanism, as an extinguisher, put out the light, and she became dark as the heathen catholicism, fashionable episcopalianism, gloomy presbyterianism, shallow congregationalism, and fanatical methodism, and so forth, of our day: therefore Death and Hades had authority to kill and destroy with wild beasts of the earth; these began their work with wild devastation, and all that remains of Ephesus in our time is a few families of Turks, and a Mohammedan mosque.
31 And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
The testimony for the truth had affected the higher circles of society, and laid hold of the educated and devout-minded among Jews and Gentiles, unlike its experience in our day, when it can operate on the fringes of society merely. The circumstances of the case admitted of such a result. To the Jews Paul had access, as a Jew, in the synagogues which were open to all; and he was enabled to arrest Gentile attention by means which are not at the disposal of nineteenth century labourers.
"God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul."-(Acts 19:11.)
The consequence was the formation of a large ecclesia in Ephesus composed of the better sort, whose well working was a natural cause of anxiety to him. Paul was with them two years, at the end of which he left them for other parts to see them no more again, except the elders, for whom he sent from Miletus, on a subsequent occasion, when passing.
Sunday Morning 41