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Unfinished Work

Acts 18:24-28

 

“A Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was powerful in the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. [25] This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught the things about Jesus accurately, although he knew only John’s baptism. [26] He began to speak boldly in the • synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained the way of God to him more accurately. [27] When he wanted to cross over to Achaia, the brothers wrote to the disciples urging them to welcome him. After he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace. [28] For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating through the Scriptures that Jesus is the • Messiah.” (HCSB)

Acts 19:1-7 “While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples [2] and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ ‘No,’ they told him, ‘we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ [3] ‘Then with what [baptism] were you baptized?’ he asked them. ‘With John’s baptism,’ they replied. [4] Paul said, ‘John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the One who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ [5] On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [6] And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to speak with [other] languages and to prophesy. [7] Now there were about 12 men in all.” (HCSB)

 There are some passages of scripture that are lightening rod passages that people from different denominations gather around to argue over.  The second of these two passages I’ve just read is one of them.  I would suspect you would hear a radically different sermon on this text if you were in a Pentecostal church or even some other evangelical churches.  Some would focus on verse 5 and say the reason for the delayed blessing was because the people weren’t baptized in the “name of Jesus.”  Whenever I baptize, I always use the formula Jesus gave us in the Great Commission, “in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit.”  I believe that formula is baptizing in the name of Jesus.  But some would disagree with me saying, that you must actually say “Jesus” not “the son” during the baptism. 

 Others would focus on verse six and say what was lacking in their conversion experience was the gift of speaking in tongues.  Some Pentecostal strains even go so far to teach that if you do not have the ability to speak in tongues, you are not really saved.  Of course, we’d reject this teaching for several reasons.  One, we believe salvation is by the grace of God resulting from a belief that Jesus rose from the grave and confession that He is our Lord. (Romans 10:9-10)  If speaking in tongues was a prerequisite for salvation, this scripture, and others that talk about the bases of salvation would have clearly stated that it was a requirement.  Second, when Pentecostals refer to the gift of tongues, I fear they mean something different than what is occurring in the book of Acts.  In the book of Acts, “the gift of tongues” involved people speaking actual, understandable languages and it is always accompanied by the proclamation of the gospel.  Every time.  No exceptions.  During one of our recent prayer meetings, Andrea prayed for me that God would give me the gift of tongues because I am studying Spanish so our church can better reach our community with the gospel.  I appreciated her prayer and believe it was a Biblical one.  She wasn’t praying that I would speak a language no one would understand; she was praying that God would help me speak Spanish.  These occurrences through the book of Acts help associate the ongoing movement of God with what happened on the Day of Pentecost.  They become a scarlet thread that connects one occurrence of the movement of the Spirit with another.  I know there are many unanswered questions here, and while I must move on, we have planned the evening service around a study of the Holy Spirit.  So come back tonight and we’ll expound on this more.

 Now that I’ve acknowledged that not all churches would believe or teach the same thing about this passage of scripture. I want to study it from a little different angle.  Instead of entering into a theological discussion about it, I want to ask a simple question, what was wrong with John’s ministry?  He appears to be getting dissed here, don’t you think?  In the first passage, Luke has some glowing things to say about Apollos.  It says, “A Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was powerful in the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. [25] This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught the things about Jesus accurately, although he knew only John’s baptism. [26] He began to speak boldly in the • synagogue.”  Underline these words in your bible, eloquent, powerful, instructed, fervent, accurately, boldly.  These are the kinds of traits we want in our preachers, aren’t they?  We sure don’t want boring, wimpy, ignorant, lazy, sloppy and timid preachers.  Yet verse 26 says, “After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained the way of God to him more accurately.”  Wait a minute, what’s up here?  If he was all that, why would they take him aside and give him further instruction?  What was lacking in his message?

 We get a clue in verse 25, it says, “he knew only John’s baptism.”

 Now let’s skip over to the text we talked about earlier.  While this was happening with Apollos in Corinth, Paul was in Ephesus chatting with some believers, verse 2 and 3 of chapter 19 of Acts says, “‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ ‘No,’ they told him, ‘we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ [3] ‘Then with what [baptism] were you baptized?’ he asked them. ‘With John’s baptism,’ they replied.” 

Here it is again.  Once again John’s baptism is criticized.  So what’s wrong with John’s baptism?  After all, didn’t he baptize Jesus?  If Jesus were still on earth, would Paul want to rebaptize him too?

Baptism is important to Baptists.  Some would say we overemphasize its importance; nevertheless, it is important to us.  We believe it must be done after a person believes, not before.  We believe it must be done by immersion.  We baptize people under the water, not sprinkle or pour water over them.  We also connect church membership with baptism.  Acts 2:41 says, “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them.” (HCSB)  People enter into the membership of the church through baptism. 

Notice in verse 3, Paul doesn’t question what the disciples believed when they were baptized, he questions what the person doing the baptism believed.  The beliefs of the person performing the baptism are important too.  That is the teaching of this text. A few years ago a man with a Mormon background wanted to become a member of our church.  I explained the gospel to him and he said that he had already accepted Christ as his Savior, that’s why he was leaving the Mormon Church.  When I explained that we would want him to be baptized, he was offended, saying his Mormon baptism was sufficient.  Of course, I didn’t compromise with him, but invited him to continue to attend our church without membership.  You will be happy to know that under the influence of the preaching of the word, a few months later he made a genuine profession of faith and gladly followed the Lord in believer’s baptism. 

To me, it made a difference that this man’s baptism was Mormon, and not Christian.  Our members have all been baptized in a Baptist Church or a church of “like faith and order.”  Sometimes whether or not to rebaptize is a judgment call, but other times it is cut and dry, like in this case.  Paul wanted these disciples to be rebaptized because all they had was John’s baptism.  In verse four he explains his reasoning, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the One who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.’

 John’s baptism was in anticipation of something to come.  His message was one of repentance from sin—a good message, but an incomplete one.  We not only need to repent from our sins, we also need to turn to Christ.  The Christian faith cannot be defined by the things we do not do, it can only be understood by who we serve and who controls our lives.  John’s message was the movie trailer, not the feature presentation. 

The complete gospel message includes the repentance that John preached, but it also includes the surrender to Christ that Paul preached and resulted in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised. Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;” John 14:16 (KJV) 

 Has there been a time in your life when you’ve repented from your sins, surrendered your life to Jesus Christ and turned your life over to the indwelling control of the Holy Spirit?  If not, you can do so today.  Confess your sins, forsake them and repent from them.  Ask Jesus to save you, and He will. 

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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