Monday, June 15, 2009

Baptism of Holy Spirit Part 5 (Jn. 1:24-28)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 10th May 2009 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Jn. 1:24-28

Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19 recorded about the descent of the Holy Spirit. What is the relationship between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the descent of the Holy Spirit? In Acts 2, the descent of the Holy Spirit is also the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Other than Acts 2, there is no more baptism of the Holy Spirit. And other than the 4 instances on the descent of the Holy Spirit, there are no more other recordings on the descent of the Holy Spirit.

The 4 incidents where the Holy Spirit descended matched with the words of Jesus regarding the areas the gospel is to be preached, i.e. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the world. When Jesus proclaimed that they are to be His witnesses in these four regions, this is how the gospel spread in geographical manner.

Why was the second incident in Samaria, and the third come back to Judea (in the house of Cornelius)? Geographically the house of Cornelius was in Judea, but these people who received the Holy Spirit were not Jews. The gospel was to be preached first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. So Samaria came first. We can see how the will of God is accomplished in this manner.

In Jerusalem, what kind of people received the Holy Spirit baptism? Are they already believers? Have they been baptised? The most important among them are the apostles of Christ themselves. Together with the disciples, Mary the mother of Jesus too prayed to God through Christ. When the Holy Spirit came upon them, none of them had been baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. None of them had been baptised in Jesus’ name either. Christ Himself baptised them with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentacost. They received power when the Spirit came upon them. The disciples spoke in tongues to let people understand the gospel, that the gospel is not confined to the Jews. When we preach Christ, we will be united. When we preach ourselves, we will be broken up. This is the contrast of the Tower of Babel and the Day of Pentacost. The existence of tongues enable those who did not earlier understand to understand.

In Chapter 8, the Samaria believers had believed and been baptised in Jesus’ name. The Lord blessed Phillip’s ministry such that even sorcerer also believed and was baptised. It meant there are now churches outside Jerusalem. Apostles went there and simply asked if they have received the Holy Spirit. They have believed Jesus and been baptised. Does that mean that is not enough? Peter and John laid hands on them. It signified that the Church must have the Holy Spirit. This passage has been frequently misinterpreted that it is not sufficient to believe and be baptised in water, that we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit too. Many people feel that the church sermon is so boring, so they need some excitement. They follow this story in Acts 8 and presumed the apostles’ role to baptise people with the Holy Spirit. With great confidence, they think others do not have the Holy Spirit and they have the authority to lay hands and baptise people with the Holy Spirit.

But can we conclude just based on this verse? Is it true that the apostles are not happy that there are many Christians in Samaria, and went there to show that they are better because they could baptise them with the Holy Spirit?

Jesus Himself breathed and said to the disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Are the disciples also imitating Christ, and hence the Charismatics followed the disciples? God the Father breathed in creation and Man became a living being. God the Son breathed the Spirit into us and gave us life. This act of breathing life is a mark of divinity. Only God could do this. In miracles which raised the dead, Elijah prayed to God, Elisha prayed to God. But God the Son simply commanded the dead to rise.

Similarly, in giving the Holy Spirit, Jesus simply breathed into His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We cannot use Acts 8 to justify that we can breathe Holy Spirit into people’s lives. The charismatics get more and more confused. They lay hands on people and they fall on the floor. But in the Bible, not a single instance did someone fall on the floor when they were laid hands on. The Holy Spirit only make people raise, not fall. He opens people’s eyes to see and understand, not to become confused. While all those happenings in the charismatic meetings might be genuinely supernatural, not all supernatural things are of the Holy Spirit. God has given us His Scriptures for us to differentiate right from wrong. We need to understand the pure and complete, reasonable will of God. God’s will is that we will get wisdom and come to the understanding of the truth in all consciousness.

If truly we need anointing, what authority do those people have? The Bible said it is the apostles who came to lay hands. Phillip was an evangelist and it was the Spirit of God who sent him to preach the gospel and to baptise. Even he did not lay hands on the believers to receive the Holy Spirit, it was John and Peter. Now do we think that what we have is not enough, and we need the Charismatics to come and lay hands on us? They assume the status of the apostles of the past and believe that their laying hands would give others power. This has damaged church teaching a lot.

What then is lacking in the church of Samaria? Eph. 2:20 gave us the answer. The church is built upon the foundation of the prophets and the apostles, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. This phrase came later from the Apostle Paul. It was not the words of Peter. But under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter and John went to establish the church in Samaria. The church in Samaria had no foundation. It must be built upon the foundation of the prophets and the apostles. So once they heard that there were many believers in Samaria, Peter and John quickly went to establish it. The church of Jerusalem sent the best of the apostles themselves to go to Samaria. The principle of Antioch church is to send the best, the most important people. After Peter and John laid hands on the believers in Samaria, the church was established. In contrast, many churches today sent their second best to missions.

The church is most confused today. Many preachers who graduate from seminaries preach very logically but seem to have no power. But many people who do not understand theology seem to have a lot of power. But to lay hands, we need to ask – what authority do they have? Are they apostles? (To be continued …)


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