February 25, 2014.
I cannot tell you how many times I have read through the opening chapter of Acts. Probably between 50-100, though that is purely a guess with no statistical backing. However, I was having a bible study with a friend today, and when we read through the first five verses, two different ideas for some reason just clicked. It was like I had never read it before in my life, and I was finding this new passage of scripture that revealed answers to at least two questions that I wanted to know. Thinking back on it now, I have recently been consistently praying for wisdom through the truth of God’s word. Perhaps this is part of God’s answer. I would like to share the connections I made today, though I’m sure many of you have already made them.
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
The first thing I noticed in this, as it may seem obvious to you, was how in the second verse Luke writes that the Holy Spirit spoke commands through the apostles so that we may know what we are to do. I have always believed that the apostles wrote through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but I’m not sure I know where the biblical reference to that was (besides II Timothy 3:16-17 which could be viewed as referring to Old Testament scripture, a discussion for another day I suppose). But Luke makes it clear here in just the second verse of Acts. This is why it was so stressed in the rest of the book and in may of the letters that the disciples were to follow in the apostle’s doctrine:
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.”
The second connection I made dealt with the latter part of the passage where our Lord is speaking of a statement that John made concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We can read the full statement in the third chapter of Matthew’s gospel:
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
John carried out a water baptism for repentance (similar, but not exactly, like the baptism we have today) but he said that there was one who would come after him that would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The one was Jesus, and as he is talking to his disciples, about to ascend into heaven, he said that it was about time for this prophecy to be fulfilled. We see that it is indeed fulfilled in the second chapter of Acts:
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
There has been much confusion on what John was talking about exactly when he said that Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire, but I believe Jesus clearly lays out what he meant here. If you are not convinced that this was the fulfillment and that the baptism we use today is strictly the baptism of the Holy Spirit, let me ask you an honest question. What about the baptism of fire? John said that this type of baptism would come as well. Do we experience this today? If not, then why would one of the baptisms he talks about apply forever where the other one only applies to a specific case, such as here in Acts 2? Just some thought provoking questions.
I suppose the point I am making with these two revelations, if you will, is that no matter how well we think we know a passage of scripture, a book or a theological concept, we can still be missing something. I encourage you to dive into the word and test your beliefs. It is no wrong to question why you believe something, as long as you genuinely seek truth to answer the question. Jesus said “seek and you will find.” Even if you have read through a certain passage before, read it again. Many times it will have new jewels of truth that you may have missed (or forgotten) in the past. Let us all be truth seekers and never be stagnant in our faith.
Suggested Daily Reading: Malachi 3-4, Matthew 3, Acts 1-2.
The Lord grant us wisdom.