Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by George C. Clark
“Paul, having passed through the interior regions, came to Ephesus. And finding certain disciples, he said to them, ‘Have you received the holy Ghost since you believed?’ They said to him, ‘We haven’t even heard that there is a holy Ghost.’ Then he said to them, ‘With what, then, were you baptized?’ They said, ‘With John’s baptism.’ But Paul said, ‘John actually baptized with a baptism of repentance while telling the people that they should believe on the one coming after him, that is, on the Messiah, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And after Paul laid his hands on them, the holy Ghost came upon them, and they started speaking in tongues and prophesying. And there were about twelve men in all.”
Paul’s question, “Have you received the holy Ghost since you believed?” was asked of a group of Ephesian disciples who had, as shown by the inquiry, “believed”. Not only had they believed, but they had also been baptized with water; yet, according to their own testimony, they had “not even heard that there was a holy Ghost.” What a picture of thousands upon thousands today who have believed in Jesus but who, in reality, have not heard about the holy Spirit!
The principal reason so many followers of Christ now have not yet received the Comforter is the same reason that the twelve Ephesian disciples had not yet received it; that is, they were taught by a man who himself had not yet received the holy Spirit; namely, “A certain Jew named Apollos arrived at Ephesus, an Alexandrian by birth, a learned man and mighty in the scriptures. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:24–25). Of course, “when Aquila and Priscilla [a Spirit-filled man and his wife] heard him [Apollos teaching], they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more perfectly.” Yes, they explained to Apollos the truth concerning Jesus’ baptism, a truth that is unquestionably needed among multitudes today who have been taught only a form of repentance and water baptism.
There are other examples in the Bible of believers who did not (for a short time) have the holy Spirit. For instance, “Philip went down to a city of Samaria and began preaching the Messiah to them. And the people with one accord began to pay attention to the things spoken by Philip when they heard them and saw the miracles that he was working, for many were possessed with unclean spirits, which came out, crying out with a loud voice, and many who were paralyzed and crippled were healed. And there was great joy in that city.” Moreover, we are told that “when they believed Philip as he preached about the good things of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, men as well as women began to be baptized. . . . When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the holy Spirit (for as yet, it had fallen upon none of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Messiah, Jesus). Then they began laying hands on them, and they started receiving the holy Spirit” (Acts 8:5–17).
The early saints did not wait until new believers had grown cold and disheartened but straightway they brought them into the fullness of the holy Spirit. Oh, that it were so today with all who have believed the message concerning Jesus! God has provided for His children the power to live a life of joy through the holy Spirit. The coming of the holy Spirit into one’s life does not bring a burdensome responsibility to live up to some disagreeable command, as many seem to think; on the contrary, it brings God’s gracious offer for a victorious life here among men. And this life is not only the believer’s privilege, but it is also God’s command.
Many believers labor under the handicap of what may be called, “the Apollos spirit”, which is a ministry without the knowledge of the truth or power of the holy Spirit. Oh, how we need more workers with the experience that Aquila and Priscilla possessed – a fullness of the Spirit and power of God! And how we need more men like Apollos, who humbly repent when more light is given to them! Apollos became one of Paul’s best helpers, spreading the light of the gospel to others!
According to John’s testimony, the baptism with the holy Spirit is the prime credential of Jesus, proving that he is indeed the Messiah, and we believe what John said. In other words, if Jesus had not bestowed on his followers the baptism of the Spirit, John’s testimony concerning him would have fallen to the ground, since his clear declaration was that the Christ would bestow this baptism of the Spirit. Then, whoever it is who administers the baptism of the holy Spirit is the Christ, the Savior of the world. That person is Jesus.
John the Baptist’s mission was to prepare Israel to receive the Christ and his baptism. John baptized with water all Jews who repented, thus making them candidates for Jesus’ baptism with the Spirit. John’s message was this: “I indeed baptize you with water, but one is coming who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you with holy Spirit and fire!” Water baptism was offered to the Jews with the understanding that it was only a preparation for the baptism of the holy Spirit. Isn’t it remarkable that so many have received the testimony of John concerning water baptism, yet at the same time have rejected it with regard to the baptism of the holy Spirit? For as John administered the one, he promised that Christ would administer the other.
This being true, we can understand why Paul told the twelve Ephesian disciples that they had not actually received John’s baptism. If they had, they could not have said, “We haven’t even heard that there is a holy Spirit”, for John’s baptism always included the promise of the baptism of the holy Spirit. Paul explained to them that John baptized with water, “telling the people that they should believe on [by receiving the holy Spirit] the one coming after him, that is, on the Messiah, Jesus.” Thus we see that John truly baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus” – the same baptism which Peter preached to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38), and the baptism which our Ephesian friends were given before they received the holy Spirit.
Now, neither John nor any apostle made a ceremonial form of repeating the name of Jesus while administering water baptism, but they all made it crystal clear that John’s baptism in water was only a token of the baptism of the Spirit which Jesus gives to men who truly repent, Jew or Gentile.
Many today have been spiritually conceived, that is, have had the word of God sown in their hearts, yet they are living in condemnation – condemnation that light has come and they have not walked in it. They know that the Bible teaches that believers should receive the baptism of the holy Spirit, but they have not met God’s conditions to receive it. Why haven’t they? Only God can say. But one thing is certain: God will not give them His holy Spirit until they do. Those who have been spiritually conceived, or convicted of sin by the word of God, are required to walk in the light; otherwise, they will live in constant condemnation: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”
May I ask you now, “Have you received the holy Ghost since you believed?” Our Lord declared, “‘He who believes in me, as the scripture said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water!’ But he spoke this about the Spirit, which those who believed on him were going to receive” (Jn. 7:38–39). The age in which we live is especially the dispensation of the holy Spirit, for just as certainly as Jesus made his advent into the world at Bethlehem, even so, the holy Spirit made its advent into the world at Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost. Those who rejected the Savior when he was sent into the world lost their souls. Those who reject the holy Spirit that he sent as his Vicar will lose theirs.
The commandment to submit to Jesus’ baptism was not given to the first generation of believers alone. Listen to Peter in his great sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38, 39): “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit! The promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Reader, the phrase, “all who are afar off” includes you and me, does it not?
Some consider the baptism of the holy Spirit to be unnecessary. But I must tell you, my friend, that to submit to Jesus’ baptism is a commandment of God. And since it is His command, we must be obedient. We read in Acts 5:32, “And we are his witnesses of these things, and so is the holy Spirit, which God has given to those who obey Him.” Now, Reader, can’t you see that if you haven’t yet received the holy Spirit, it is because you have not been obedient? And if you have not been obedient, then you have been disobedient, have you not? And disobedience, as students of the Bible know, is considered as evil “as the sin of witchcraft” (1Sam. 15:23).
If the early disciples needed this endowment of power, how much more do the disciples of today? If Mary, the mother of our Lord, had need of this precious gift of God (Acts 1:13–14; 2:1–4), what about you and me, my Reader? Education cannot bring this gift to us, though we be eloquent and well-versed in the Scriptures. Apollos is proof enough of that. Neither money nor station are useful in attaining it. Jesus, alone, bestows this blessing. And he bestows it upon all those who truly “repent and believe the gospel!”