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Messianic Kingdom (3)

"What Baptism Did You Receive?"

Acts 18:24-19:7

Jim Davis

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.

First 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.

Acts 18:24-28
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.

Acts 19:1-7
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.

Mark 9:38-41
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 the seeker.

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 it simple.

I urge 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.

John 12:47-50
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

Power Comes To Those Who Obey

God’s power will elude us until we have given our hearts to his kingdom.

Acts 19:5-7
"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. God’s 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.

Luke 18:15-17
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." NIV

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 is absence.

Hebrews 6:1-8
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.

Acts 17:10-12
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 truth.

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 already knew.

Conclusion:

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?

Colossians 1:9-14
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?

 

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