This question was asked by Paul to twelve people who claimed to believe and is a great question for us today. Let’s look at Acts 19 as this question unfolds:
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.” Acts 19:1-2
This passage presents several important lessons on salvation. The lessons must be kept in mind as believers go about the task of proclaiming the gospel of salvation.
I. Salvation necessitates full belief and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. While ministering in Ephesus, (Acts 19) Paul ran across twelve disciples who had no association with the church at Ephesus. They were either drifting, or else were meeting for worship in another area of the city. They were just totally unknown to the church and to Priscilla and Aquila. In either case, Paul found them, and what results is one of the great lessons on salvation. (Note: they could not have been associated with Apollos, for he would have proclaimed Christ to them after his true conversion.)
Note Paul’s question. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Some have held that these men believed and then the Holy Spirit came upon them some time after their belief. But this could not be the case, for it is contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
They were disciples of John, Jewish proselytes, who were still looking for the coming Messiah (Acts 19:2-4, esp. Acts 19:3-4). They evidently were not Christian believers. They had not been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their belief was incomplete. They believed what John had preached, that the Messiah was coming, but they did not know He had already come in the person of Jesus Christ. They had repented of sin as preached by John, but they had not yet received the saving presence of the Lord Jesus in their hearts and lives. The living presence and power of Christ in the Person of the Holy Spirit had not yet saved them.
Note: Paul did not degrade their incomplete faith. He did not rebuke them for not grasping the full message of John. He approached them in a positive manner. He pointed out that they had done well by repenting of sin, for John did proclaim the baptism of repentance. But John did something else: he proclaimed to the people that…
“They should believe on Him, which should come after him [John] that is on Christ Jesus.” Acts 19:4
When the twelve disciples heard this, they responded just as they should have: they believed (Acts 19:4), were baptized (Acts 19:5), and received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6).
Note three significant lessons about full belief:
- A person can repent and be baptized and still not have received Christ into his life and heart. They can say they believe in Christ and still not have the Holy Spirit. When Paul looked at these men who professed to be disciples, he saw they were lacking something. The lack was visible, and he suspected what it was. They were not bearing the presence and fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
2. Belief can be incomplete. Note closely: these men believed in the coming Messiah preached by John, and they had even repented and turned from their sin to God. But they still lacked the presence of Christ, that is, of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Romans 8:9
How many have changed their lives and are now living moral lives, but still have never accepted the truth of Christ,
- the truth of His coming to earth?
- the truth of His securing our righteousness by living a sinless life?
- the truth of His dying for our sins?
- the truth of His arising from the dead?
Salvation necessitates full belief, believing the truth that Jesus is Lord in the fullest sense of salvation.
3. Note that these twelve were baptized twice.
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. Acts 19:3-5
A believer is to be baptized after his conversion—in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 1:13 (NIV)
II. Salvation necessitates a decision: a person either decides to accept Christ or else he automatically rejects Him. In the case of the audience who heard Paul, many rejected Christ. They just hardened their hearts and refused to believe. For three months Paul preached boldly in the synagogue of the Jews. (Acts 19:8) Note two facts.
1. Paul “argued persuasively ” the gospel. The word means to reason, discuss, convince, and answer questions. He discussed the gospel, asking and answering questions, convincing all who were willing to be convinced. (Acts 19:8)
2. Many were hardened and did not believe, being disobedient to the call of God to salvation. (Acts 19:9)
- The word “hardened” means to harden like a stone; to be unfeeling and difficult, standing in opposition.
- The words “believed not” mean to be disobedient. Take note of this, for rejecting the gospel is not just unbelief. It is much worse: it is disobeying God. God demands that men believe in His Son Jesus Christ. Refusing to believe is outright disobedience, an affront to God, an act of rebellion and hostility against His commandment.
Have you fully believed in Christ?
For more about the series The Holy Spirit go to www.ridgefellowship.com
Source: Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary
I have been reading out many of your articles and i can state pretty clever stuff. I will make sure to bookmark your site.
In Acts 2:1-21 it talks about tongues being the sign from God, that when Everybody received or were filled with the Holy Spirit they bagan to speak in tongues.Why dosent this experience happen in our church?.. Ive experienced it and seen hundreds experience it,but it seems to be a Topic that doesn’t. Get out to alot of denominations now and i dont understand why?
Richard, I think the point in Acts 2 was that there were people that spoke different languages at Pentacost. The word translated “tongues” is the Greek word, “lingua” which also laguages. It means that people could understand the gospel in their own language. Evangelism was the end result. But Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians 14 about tongues in church, so it seems it was pretty evident in New Testament times, but needed some parameters, which is still true today.
It is a shame some denominations have avoided the topic altogether. Probably because of misunderstanding or fear.
Thank God for the Charismatic movement that ushered in our modern praise and worship, helping the church have more freedom and expression in music and worship. Also freedom in prayer, healing and other benefits. I do not believe that speaking in tongues is the only evidence of the Holy Spirit today. I have many friends that are Pentecostal, Assemblies of God and other Charismatic denominations, some agree with me some do not. We love each other either way and I will love you either way.