Monday, June 15, 2009

Baptism of Holy Spirit Part 7 (Jn. 1:24-28) - FINAL

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 24th May 2009 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Jn. 1:24-28

The first descent of the Holy Spirit is in Jerusalem, the second in Samaria, third in the house of Cornelius in Judea, and the forth in Ephesus. After these four recordings, there is no more recording of the descent of the Holy Spirit on someone or on some church.

And then, after nearly 2000 years, we suddenly start to hear incidents of Holy Spirit’s descent. Could the descent of the Holy Spirit be the special privilege given to the past? Or could it be that the Holy Spirit has already come, so there is no need to come anymore? Which view is more biblical? The Apostle Paul no longer wrote about the Holy Spirit coming upon them. The word “baptism” of the Holy Spirit is also no longer mentioned. Before ascension, Jesus Christ promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, it was not recorded they were “baptised” with the Holy Spirit, but that they were “filled” with the Holy Spirit. Are they different thing? The baptism, the filling, the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Jesus cleansed with the Holy Spirit. We know that once the Holy Spirit descends upon someone, He will never leave. It is promised in John 16:1-2. Do I prepare for the Holy Spirit to come by cleansing myself, or does the Holy Spirit cleanse me thus I become holy and clean? We are born in sin and have no power to cleanse ourselves. When we turn from sinner to saint, it cannot be from our power. It is by the elective grace of God. Hence the book of Timothy said that it is because of His election that we become clean. But who is the person who gave us the Holy Spirit? It is Jesus Christ who said “receive the Holy Spirit”. God uses His Word to cleanse us. God the Son cleanses us because He died for us and His precious blood cleanse us. God the Son also used the Holy Spirit to cleanse us. The only thing that can cleanse us is the Word, the blood and the Spirit, and nothing else. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit live within us and make us clean. When a person receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit by Christ, the Spirit will forever dwell in his heart.

Hence Paul no longer need to tell the churches to receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came into the Universal Church and forever would never leave. The Bible no longer writes about Holy Spirit baptism after that. He came once and for all for the Universal Church. What about descent of the Holy Spirit in Acts 8, 10 and 19? These represent the regions Jesus spoke about, i.e. Judea, Samaria and the ends of the world.

In the first incident in Jerusalem, there were no water baptism. Jesus Himself sent the apostles. 120 people were waiting for the promise. They were the first group called by Christ. None of them were baptised in the name of the Triune God. They were already disciples of Christ and none need laying of hands by apostles. Apostles were already there. None need preaching of the gospel since they already believed. So in this first incident, we see no gospel preaching, no laying of hands, and no baptism.

The second event was in Samaria. There was gospel preaching by evangelist Phillip. People believed and received water baptism. But they needed the apostles to come and lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. This is a special incident. They have heard the gospel, believed and were baptised in Christ’s name. But they have not received the Holy Spirit though they have heard, believed and been baptised. So the Charismatics wanted to follow the same procedure to lay hands on people and get them baptised in the Holy Spirit. They seem to have a lot of power so a lot of Christians went there to get the laying of hands. Many churches get confused. Slowly, many people turn charismatic, including pastors. In Acts 8, it is the Apostles who laid hands, not just any believers. The Apostles were those who were directly appointed by Christ. So none of the believers today are apostles, despite their claim.

In the third incident, Acts 10 recorded about a group of people who have not heard the gospel, have not believed, have not been baptised in water. But they received the Holy Spirit. If the Charismatics’ procedure is correct, why does Acts 10 have different order? Many people develop a doctrine just based on a few verses. The situation in Chp 19 shows yet another different scenario. All the 4 incidents tell that the focal point is on how Christ baptised with the Holy Spirit.

The church in Samaria is not a true church because Phillip is not an apostle. He is not qualified to be called the foundation of the Church. Eph. 2:20 declared that the Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. Eph 4:11 declared that God has given first of all apotles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Do we have teachers, pastors and evangelists? Yes. The latter three are different from the first two. The first two are the foundation of the Church. Why do we need a chief cornerstone then? Because only He (Christ) can bring the two foundation (the apostles and the prophets) together.

1 Cor. 12:28 say that in the Church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, …

These 3 are the most important verses in the New Testament where the apostles and prophets are mentioned. The Church is built upon this foundation. The commonality is that the apostles are first mentioned then the prophets. But chronologically prophets came first. The Old Testament is recorded by the prophets. The New Testament is recorded by the apostles.

The prophets generally never saw Jesus, except John the Baptist. Christ said that among those born of women there is none greater than John the Baptist. He died earlier than Christ so he did not see Christ going to the Cross. So he only saw Christ halfway. Hence the smallest in the kingdom of God is greater than he. Who are in the Kingdom of God? Those born of the Holy Spirit. The whole Old Testament is a shadow. The New Testament is the real thing. The Old Testament is like a photograph. When the real person come, the photograph is no longer important. What the prophets have not seen, the apostles have seen. So when the apostles preach Christ, it is not a prophecy, it is the fulfilment of the prophecy. One is prediction (prophets) and the other one is the fulfilment. The foundation (apostles and prophets) is the New Testament and the Old Testament revealed by God. Christ is the cornerstone. Why was the apostles always mentioned first? Because without the New Testament we can never understand the Old Testament. Without the teaching of the apostles, you cannot understand Christology taught in the Old Testament. The New Testament is the foundation of the Old Testament. The Old Testament implicitly contain the New Testament. But the New Testament completes the Old Testament. We understand the Old Testament is truly true because of the New Testament.

Until today, the Jews could not understand Isa 58 which talked about the Suffering Servant. When the eunuch from Euthopia could not understand this passage, it was Phillip who explained to him.

The Old Testament has no meaning if it were not about Jesus. The New Testament also has not value if it does not preach Christ. So we see that when the Holy Spirit came, they preached about Jesus. The focus of the New Testament is the Lamb to be slaughtered set from eternity. Christ is the cornerstone of this two walls. The Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. If the church is not built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, it cannot be accepted. When people believed and were baptised in water in Samaria, the Holy Spirit did not come upon them because Phillip was not an apostle. Does it matter? We do not have apostles today. Are we true church? We are. At that time the Bible had not yet been completed and the church set up by evangelist Phillip was not based on the Bible. They have the Old Testament, but without the New Testament it is impossible to explain the Old Testament. But Phillip understood. However the principle that the apostles must be the foundation of the church cannot be ignored. Although Phillip’s teaching was orthodox, it had to be affirmed by the apostles. Hence Peter laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them. The church in Samaria became orthodox after the apostles’ affirmation. Were they baptised in water again after the Holy Spirit come down? They were not. So we have to be very cautious regarding the ritual of baptism – do people ever need to be rebaptised? What about immersion versus sprinkling? Some churches insist in sprinkling for years. There are no depiction of immersion in wall painting in Rome. So the church has been sprinkling, and whoever changed it immersion is very bold.

Is immersion more biblical than sprinkling? It was claimed that Jesus was immersed in water, that immersion represented our death and resurrection with Christ, and that the Greek word “baptizo” indicated immersion.

But the Bible only said Jesus came out of the water, it did not say He was immersed and His head came out of water. Using that phrase as a sole interpretation is not accurate. The idea that immersion represent death and burying with Christ is even more incorrect. The idea of burial was not Jewish custom. He was not buried in the ground, but in the cave. In the Bible, at least 17 mention of baptizo does not refer to immersion.

How about sprinkling? Those who believe say the Holy Spirit came from heaven to earth. Whether you are immersed and sprinkled, do not take it absolutely. And there is no need to rebaptise whether you are immersed or sprinkled. After the believers in Samaria received the Holy Spirit, they were not asked to be baptize in water again because they had been baptized in Jesus’ name.

In Acts 19, Paul asked what kind of baptism they receive, it was John’s baptism. Paul said John baptism is baptism unto repentance, but as John himself preached, they were to believed in Him who was to come after John, who is Jesus. So some people believe that Christians could be baptised twice if the first baptism was not sufficient. We should not be deceived. The baptism in the church of Ephesus was because they were not baptised in Christ’s name earlier, not because of the mode of baptism.

Now compare the third and forth descent of the Holy Spirit. When Peter was in the House of Cornelius, he was sent by God although initially he did not want to. In a vision, 3 times he was commanded to kill and eat those animals considered impure by the Law. If Peter ate, does that mean Peter changed because he used to obey the Law and he now disobeyed? Or does that mean God changed His mind regarding the Law He gave? He gave the Law and yet now He commanded Peter to eat the unclean animals. It is not that Peter or God that changed. God has used His power to change the unclean to become clean. This is where our lives are changed. When we understand the power of God, the only way is to obey.

Peter went and was astonished when he came to the house of Cornelius. Even his own people had departed from God’s Law, and yet these Gentiles truly had the fear of God. So Peter understood. The Great Commission already mandated him to go into all the world, and he had disobeyed Christ by only preaching to the Jews. So Peter was transformed and understood that God could make the unclean clean.

Peter was initially quite reluctant when he went. He told Cornelius’ household that he was not supposed to come because of the Law, but God commanded him to come. Cornelius highly regarded Peter and said he had vision from the angel to ask for Peter. He knew that the God of the Jews is the One True God and he knew that he had no part because he was a Gentile. A lot of children of Christians are not willing to listen to sermons but many non-Christians are waiting to hear because the Lord had made them clean.

Cornelius worshipped Peter once he saw him. Peter said, “Get up, I am a man myself.” This should be the attitude of a pastor. Peter started talking about tradition, but after that he started preaching Christ, not the Holy Spirit. In fact, he only mentioned the Holy Spirit once when he spoke about the power of Christ.

These people never heard of Jesus and were not yet baptized in water, but when Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon them. Peter was astonished. It meant there is no difference between Jews and the Gentiles. So he baptised them in the name of Jesus too. Nobody should prevent them. Compared with the second descent, they have not heard, have not believed, have not been baptised. But once Peter spoke, the Holy Spirit came upon them. So they received the Holy Spirit first and then they were baptised in water. This is different from what the Charismatics claimed.

The similarity between the second and third incident is that they must first hear the gospel. Even before you express your faith, the Holy Spirit could come to you first. The grace of God is prior to human response. What about “believe, be baptised and you will be saved”? This is for the adults who did not believe earlier. Why we baptise infants (children of believers) before they believe? Because they are in the covenant of grace. Before creation of the world, we were not even in existence but we have been predestined. It is the principle of the grace of God.

The important thing is that because of the gospel we know God. If Christ has baptised use with the Holy Spirit, then we should be baptised in water too. The ritual of baptism itself is not important. Simon of sorcerer is one of those baptised in water but not saved.

Acts 19 is another different incident. The believers in Ephesus had heard the preaching from Apollos and received John’s baptism, but have not heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul said that is not enough. What is the difference of believing John and Jesus? Both preached repentance. John baptised with water, Jesus baptised with the Holy Spirit. John cannot cleanse but Jesus died for our sin. So they could not just stay with the baptism of John. They have to turn to Jesus. Paul said John had said to believe in the One to come after him. Paul rebaptised them. The believers in Ephesus were baptised earlier but not in the name of Jesus, and the preaching was not complete. The whole belief system was not accurate. They need to believe in Jesus, not John. So these believers were baptised twice.

But the Charismatics say the baptism received in the past is not enough, so we need another baptism. The problem is that the Samaria believers were never rebaptised. If we are baptised in the name of Jesus, we do not need to be rebaptised. It is not about much or little water and laying of hands. All 4 incidents are different. If we just use one incident to establish a system, it can become a heretical teaching.

Where is Ephesus? It is Asia Minor, farther away from Jerusalem than Samaria and the house of Cornelius. So it represents “the ends of the world”. So we have Jerusalem (Chp 2), Judea (Chp 10), Samaria (Chp 8) and ends of the world (Chp 19). During this time, so many churches were built, but there are only 4 recordings of the descent of the Holy Spirit to represent all.

The final question is, was Paul an apostle? He was, because he was directly appointed by Christ. He is a person who has seen Jesus personally and directly appointed by Christ. In this matter, he is of the same rank with all the other apostles. Paul understood this. He said he was the least of all apostles, but he was not lesser than the greatest apostle. Among those selected by Christ, he was the smallest.

Peter was not the apostle of the Gentiles. “To the ends of the world” is the work of Paul, the apostle of the Gentile. Since Paul is the apostle of the Gentile, and Cornelius was the first Gentile to believe, why did God not send Paul to them? This cannot be done because Peter is the greatest of the Apostles, and he must be the first to get the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. This position cannot taken by Paul. But why not let Peter do the last one as well? This is to establish that God has specifically chosen Paul as the Apostle of the Gentile, together with Peter. So the 4 incidents show how the gospel is to be preached to all nations.

Must we speak in tongues? Acts 8 did not record speaking in tongues after they received the Holy Spirit. Must there be loud noise? It is not seen in Acts 8, 10 and 19. Is it necessary to have second baptism? Acts 8 showed that it is not necessary. But if you are not baptised in Christ name, you need to rebaptise, as shown in Acts 19. These 4 incidents enable us to see the whole principle.

What about the speaking in tongues? In Acts 2, these people spoke tongues of other nations so that people could understand the gospel. In Acts 10, these people could be understood, they were said to be praising God. In Acts 19, there were not only tongues but prophesying / preaching. But in all these incidents, never once there was a mention of speaking jibberish that people could not understand. And Acts 8 did not mention anything about tongues. So all these are not absolute. Do not establish absolute doctrines from one incident.

Finally, 1 Cor. 12:13 Paul talked about baptism of the Holy Spirit in past tense. It is already completed. This verse is the last verse in the New Testament that mentioned Holy Spirit baptism. After that it is no longer mentioned. When this is spoken, it is not a command, not a prediction of the future, but a reflection of the past. The Holy Universal Church has already been established in eternity. Those in the future would be brought back to the Day of Pentacost when the Holy Spirit came upon the Church. With the confidence of the truth, we can run the race.

Those who specialise in the preaching of the Holy Spirit knows nothing about the Holy Spirit. If we truly have the Holy Spirit, we have to live a holy lifestyle. We want to follow His guidance and produce fruits of the Spirit. He is a Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. This concludes the series on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.


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