Baptism Did You Receive?"
We have all heard about the three blind
men that were trying to describe an elephant. One had a hold on
its tail. The second man had a hold on its trunk. The third one had a hold
on its leg. Each blind man was describing the elephant differently because
each of them had a different perspective. But neither had a clear understanding
of what an elephant looked like.
The religious division within our world
and the kingdom makes it just as confusing to recognize the true kingdom
of God today. Today there are so many perspectives concerning the
kingdom of God. There is the perspective of what constitutes worship; there
is another perspective that constitutes a body of knowledge seeking to
define God’s kingdom; then there is another perspective that seeks to describe
the spirit of those who belong to the kingdom of God. Each group may have
a clear perspective from each ones point of view, but each may be lacking
in its description of the kingdom of God. Often each person describes God’s
kingdom from his/her on personal perspective, but the crucial issue is
do we understand God’s perspective on his kingdom. The Bible is the only
source of complete information concerning the kingdom of God.
Instead of trying to figure out what everyone
is teaching, and then deciding whether it is right or wrong, why not go
to the Bible and allow it to lead you into the true kingdom of God. Our
approach is to use the New Testament as your guide to Christ. Do what they
did in the first century and surely that will be enough today.
Christians Lacked Understanding
The Bible makes it crystal clear that
it is possible for a person to think that one belongs to the kingdom of
God while not belonging to it.
24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos,
a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough
knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the
Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately,
though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in
the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to
their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
27 When Apollos wanted to go
to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there
to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace
had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving
from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. NIV
Apollos was preaching the baptism of John
after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Priscilla and Aquila
heard him and taught him the more adequate way of God although he had a
thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He humbly submitted to the clearer
perspective and became a powerful force as he continued to preach Christ.
It is important to note that Apollos had been
instructed "in the way of the Lord . . . taught
about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John."
Apollos had a powerful knowledge of the Old Testament concerning Jesus
Christ, but his message was void of the death, burial and resurrection
of Christ. His message went as far as John the Baptist. John baptized his
hearers for the remission of sins telling them that they should look to
the coming of the cross. However, now the least in the kingdom of heaven
is greater than John the Baptist.
Continuing in Acts 19 we see others
who had a misunderstanding of the kingdom of God. Paul taught them
a correct view of the gospel.
19:1 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. NIV
These disciples needed to be baptized
by the authority of Christ. They had been baptized by John’s baptism.
Evidently they knew nothing about Jesus’ baptism, and had not experienced
a spiritual birth because they had not received the Holy Spirit as of yet.
They may have been taught by Apollos, or some of Apollos’ followers. They
may have even been the followers of those we find in Mark’s gospel; we
can’t really know for sure.
38 "Teacher," said John, "we
saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because
he was not one of us."
39 "Do not stop him," Jesus
said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say
anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I
tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because
you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. NIV
It doesn’t matter why we lack the proper
knowledge of Christ, or his kingdom, or the need to be born of his Spirit.
The most crucial question is . . . are we willing to be led to a more thorough
knowledge of Christ? This is the crucial question regardless our position
in our knowledge of Christ.
It is evident that some of those outside
the Jewish influence on Pentecost were preaching the message of John the
Baptist after Christ’s death. John preached the baptism of repentance
for the forgiveness of sins as he preached about the coming of the Messiah.
Mark says that "John came, baptizing in the
desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness
of sins" (Mark 1:4-5 NIV). John preached Christ was coming,
but by the time that message came to the city of Ephesus, Christ and had
already come, and the mission of the Holy Spirit was well on its way.
There is no indication that Priscilla
and Aquila baptized Apollos again as they taught him a more adequate view
of the Scriptures. Apollos seemed to have a complete understanding
of the Scriptures, but there seemed to be one missing ingredient. He did
not know that the Scriptures had been fulfilled. He had not heard that
the Messiah had come. He was preaching John’s message that Jesus was coming,
but he had already come.
Apollos may well have been baptized
by John’s baptism before Christ died on the cross. Paul was on
his third missionary journey, but news traveled slowly in the ancient world.
It was at least eight years after Pentecost before the first Gentile convert.
Here in Acts Paul has just received the Macedonian call in Acts 16. Although
he was on his third missionary journey, he was in new territory. Apollos
had not heard about the death of Christ. However as soon as Apollos heard
that the message of John had been fulfilled, he began preaching Christ’s
message of salvation.
Those baptized by John’s baptism after
the death of Christ were commanded to be baptized again. They knew
nothing of Christ’s kingdom that was established through the power of the
Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
News traveled slowly in the first century
world. The stories we are reading about today happened about 20 years after
the death of Christ. Sometimes news travels even more slowly in
the religious world today because we are entrapped by what we already know.
We may be able to send a message around the world at the speed of light,
but it’s hard for light to penetrate what we think we already know. In
the religious world we sort of close our minds to what is going on around
us because of what we already know.
Seekers may be as sincere as Apollos,
but they must keep their minds as open as Apollos did. There are
so many churches teaching so many different things today that it is much
more confusing today than it was then. There are so many different views
of Christ expressed in church doctrines that it becomes mind boggling to
Yes, it is possible for people to be
baptized for the wrong purpose today, and, yes, it makes their baptism
as invalid as those we read about in Acts. There are some churches
that do not believe that the kingdom of God has come. When they speak of
the kingdom of God, they are speaking of a church kingdom; but they believe
that an earthly kingdom will be established at Jesus’ second coming. They
really believe that Christ failed to set up his kingdom at his first coming.
They believe his death thwarted God’s purpose to set up a physical kingdom.
As a result the church became a substitute for the kingdom of God until
Christ’s second coming. That seems to be an inadequate view of the gospel
for Christ came not to set up a physical kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom.
It may be such an inadequate that it requires those with such views to
be baptized again, even though they believe they have been baptized for
the forgiveness of sins.
Those baptized by John’s baptism before
Christ’s coming were not required to be baptized again. However,
it seems that those baptized by John’s baptism after the death of Christ
were required to be baptized into Christ for they had not received the
Holy Spirit. A child of God is conceived by the Holy Spirit, and one cannot
be conceived by the Holy Spirit until one is baptized into Christ. John
baptized for the forgiveness of sins as he preached about the coming of
Christ’s kingdom, but that baptism was apparently inadequate after the
death of Christ.
Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
does not make what we believe right.
This is especially true if we have not been
baptized into Christ kingdom. Salvation is found in the kingdom of Christ.
Remember church doctrines are confusing, but the Bible’s explanation makes
you to make absolutely sure that you belong to the kingdom of Christ, regardless
what you have believed . . . regardless of what you have been taught.
I have to constantly remind myself that I
am not the Judge. However, Christ’s words will judge us. Notice what Jesus
says about the judgment that is to come.
47 "As for the person who hears
my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come
to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who
rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will
condemn him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but
the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I
know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just
what the Father has told me to say." NIV
Comes To Those Who Obey
God’s power will elude us until we have
given our hearts to his kingdom.
"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. 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."
God confirms his powerful presence in
the lives of those who obey. On Pentecost the apostles received
the power of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues as they proclaimed the
message of a risen savior. When the gospel spread into Samaria Peter and
John went down to Samaria and laid hands on the believers and the received
the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. When Peter went into the household
of Cornelius, Cornelius’ household received the powerful presence of the
Holy Spirit. Here in Acts 19 we find Paul taking the gospel to those in
the area Macedonia on his third missionary journey and we witness that
they also received the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit.
The powerful presence of God through
the Holy Spirit was made possible by their willingness to listen and obey.
power is absence in the lives of those who fail to obey. God took his power
away from Saul because his heart was not right.
1 Samuel 13:13-14
"You acted foolishly," Samuel
said. 'You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you
had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.
But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after
his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you
have not kept the LORD's command'" (NIV).
Salvation is not a group plan; no group
or church can save me. I must obey God myself. The most difficult
task in the religious world is to keep our minds open. Those seeking in
the accounts in today’s sermon were searching for the kingdom of God with
an open mind. They were willing to receive the kingdom as a little child.
We must not forbid anyone from coming
to Christ, but they must come with the teachable attitude of a child in
order to receive the kingdom of God.
15 People were also bringing
babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they
rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the
little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of
God belongs to such as these. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will
not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
Sometimes I have to wonder if many of
those in the church of Christ are truly in the kingdom. Many have
their minds closed to going beyond what they already know. Many have quit
studying. When they do study all they see in the scriptures are the first
principles they have obeyed, but they are unwilling to lay aside the first
principles and go on into maturity. They are robbed of God’s powerful presence
in their lives. If God doesn’t rule our lives, then his powerful presence
Therefore let us leave the
elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again
the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith
in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection
of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.
4 It is impossible for those
who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who
have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word
of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought
back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of
God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
7 Land that drinks in the rain
often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it
is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns
and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end
it will be burned. NIV
Are our minds soaking in the truths
we are being taught so that we can receive the blessing of God?
If not our lives will be barren of God’s powerful presence.
11 Now the Bereans were of
more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message
with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what
Paul said was true. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number
of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. NIV
These people had a clear understanding
of the Old Testament scriptures, but they needed to see that God’s kingdom
had been established through Christ. They were eager to examine
what they already knew. They weren’t gullible, but they were eagerly willing
to listen. As a result they were led to a clearer understanding of the
Do you know how eager you are to learn about
the latest computer technology, or maybe the latest video technology, or
the latest thing on the market for the home entertainment center, or the
eagerness with which you read the stock quotes, or the eagerness with which
you purchase your new car, or the eagerness of your shopping trips to the
mall? That’s the same kind of eagerness you must have as you approach God’s
word. This kind of eagerness will lead you to experience God’s powerful
presence in your life.
Many of those going to Bible study today
only desire to be told what they already know in the way they have always
heard it. It is an insult to them to seek to lead them on to maturity
in Christ. Yet, the majority of New Testament is designed to lead us to
maturity. We are to examine how the first century kingdom of Christ faced
its problems and what they did to solve them. The reason congregations
are so troubled today is because they are not allowing God’s power to bring
them to maturity in Christ.
For years I have search for a new way
of presenting old truths in an effort to keep people eagerly searching
for the truth. It is not an easy task. I do it so people can’t
sit there give me a nod for what I am saying while going to sleep. But
if they listen, it will be difficult for them to deny the Bible truths
presented. Jesus presented old truths in new robes. It totally disturbed
the religious people of his day for they were not searching with honest
hearts. They were disturbed because they had to rethink what they thought
Do you need to eagerly rethink what
you believe you already know about Christ and his kingdom?
Have you been qualified to share in
the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light?
9 For this reason, since the
day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking
God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom
and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life
worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every
good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with
all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance
and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has
qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom
of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought
us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins. NIV
The only way you can be qualified for
the inheritance of the saints is to belong to kingdom of light. You must
allow Christ to bring into his kingdom as you obey him.
Have you been translated into the kingdom
of the Son of God through your baptism?