Monday, June 15, 2009

Baptism of Holy Spirit Part 6 (Jn. 1:24-28)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 17th May 2009 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Jn. 1:24-28

The church in Jerusalem represented the universal church all over the world. But the church in Samaria did not have the Holy Spirit’s descent and cannot be considered part of the church. Although they believe in Jesus and have been baptised in the name of Christ, they still need to be affirmed by the apostles. Why do they still need the Apostles to lay hands on them? Why is it not enough that Phillip had done the work of evangelism and brought them to Christ? Does that mean we need another baptism after salvation? We cannot conclude simply just based on this passage.

In Acts 2, they were not baptised in the name of Jesus, yet the Holy Spirit descended an they received Holy Spirit baptism. We need to learn to see overall principles and differentiate right from wrong. We can also examine the differences in Acts 10 and 19.

When Peter was in the house of Joppa, he was praying and suddenly saw a vision. He was asked to eat what was not allowed in the Law. Was God trying to tempt him to see if he would succumb to it? Certainly not. The vision happened 3 times, and Peter kept saying he never ate anything impure. God said, “Do not call anything impure what God had made pure.” Does that mean God go back on His Word? Last time He forbade eating these unclean animals and now He allowed?

God’s Law is pure and God never changes. He created all things good, but why is it that later on there are clean and unclean animals? When our faith suddenly encounter this, what do we do? God knew that Peter was obedient to the tradition of the Jews. God said not to call anything unclean which He had made clean. In the past, these were unclean. But God had the power to clean what is unclean. This is something difficult for us to accept. God has not changed. But He had cleansed what is unclean, as He would change Peter. So we cannot follow tradition blindly as God is working. This is the most difficult lesson to learn.

Why would God reject the Jewish culture? Because they were just following the words. They believed that the truth of God would only remain with the Jews. But God willed the gospel to be preached throughout the world. In fact, by God’s providence, the New Testament was written in Greek. This is a true cultural revolution.

God spoke to the house of Cornelius that he was a God-fearing man, God had heard his prayer and was pleased with his works. But he was a Gentile. So God asked him send men to look for Peter and God would send Peter to preach the gospel to them. But God would prepare Peter’s heart first. Apart from the vision, God also spoke to Peter to follow those people who were looking for him.

For the Samaritan church, once they believed, Peter and John went immediately to establish the church without delay. But they were still bound to preach to the Jews only. Hence to reach out to the Gentiles, God had to send Peter directly. Cornelius had feared the Lord for many years, what sort of person was he? He was a Greek. The Greeks had many mythical gods, who were not good moral example themselves. Later on they were influenced by the Jews who introduced to them the Jehovah God who is just and holy. So some Greeks became God-fearers. They prayed to God and tried to do good works and served the society. God was pleased with them. Cornelius was one of such people. God is just. He is not like the false Greek gods. His holiness and justice surpassed all the other idols.

The vision Peter received was to teach him that the gospel was also meant for the Gentiles. It is God who prepared the way. Peter obediently went with the men from Cornelius who came to see him. He started to preach at the house of Cornelius. What did he preach? Christ or the Holy Spirit? He spoke not of the Holy Spirit, but about how Christ died and resurrected, and how the gospel was to be preached to all the world. He said as a Jew he was not supposed to go to the Gentile, but he came to realize that God is just and showed no favoritism. Just as he said that, the Holy Spirit descended upon the people. This is the third recording of the descent of the Holy Spirit.

Why must the Spirit descend? In Acts 8 it is also Peter who laid hands on the Samaritan believers. In Acts 8, he went immediately. In Acts 10, he was compelled by God to go. But how did the Holy Spirit come? It was before preaching and before baptism, and without laying of hands. Peter was not even done speaking. So the procedure is not like what the Charismatic think. Every incident was different.

Peter was not the Apostle of the Gentiles. Paul was. But why is Peter sent instead? Paul had no such authority. Peter was recognized as the leader of the church. From the time of Adam until the coming of Jesus Christ, this is the first time the Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit. So it must be the most important apostle, Peter, who was sent for the task. Also why did they receive the Holy Spirit first before baptism? It is a mark of salvation, of God’s approval that salvation is meant for the Gentiles.

Phillip had no apostolic authority, so he waited for apostles to come and establish the church. It is not that the Holy Spirit baptism is another blessing. Ephesians 2:20 says that the church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. The order has always been the same in the New Testament. The apostles always appear first before the prophets. Chronologically, the prophets came first. But the apostles came first because the New Testament is implicit in the Old Testament, and the New Testament fulfils the Old Testament. It is a system of truth.

The Church of Jerusalem did not need the apostles to establish because the apostles themselves were there. In Acts 10, the first Gentile church needs the presence of an apostle. In Acts 19, when Apollos went to preach in Ephesus, he was not an apostle and was himself not accurate on the central message. So Paul baptised them and the Spirit came upon them.

Acts 10 is special case when the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles, and they spoke in tongues but with understanding. The Spirit of truth reveal and lead us into all truth. May the Lord direct our understanding. (To be continued … )


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