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Part 5: Gleanings From the Book of Acts

In this lesson we shall consider and compare:

PETER’S MESSAGE—JERUSALEM—Acts 2.

PHILIP’S MESSAGE—SAMARIA—Acts 8.

PAUL’S MESSAGE——EPHESUS—Acts 19.

I—PETER’S MESSAGE—ACTS 2

“Dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven.” The day of Pentecost—one of Jehovah’s or Israel’s feasts, fifty days after Firstfruits. Leviticus 23:15. These Jews, together with the proselytes (Acts 2:10), were all amazed because they had heard and witnessed God’s supernatural visitation. The Apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to speak with other tongues. The Holy Spirit had come in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Christ had been raised from the dead, in fulfillment of David’s prophecy, to occupy David’s throne. God had made the same Jesus, whom these Jews with wicked hands had crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36. Peter’s message was addressed “Ye men of Judea;” “Ye men of Israel.” Acts 2:14 and 2:22. The convicted Israelites said unto Peter, “What shall we do?” Then Peter said unto them

“REPENT, AND BE BAPTIZED EVERY ONE OF YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS, AND YE SHALL RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST.”

Note the results. Three thousand Israelites and proselytes (all considered Jews) were added. Acts 2:41. They sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men, as every man had need. At that time they had favor with all the people. “The Lord added daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:43 to 47. Some Israelites had been saved while Christ was on earth. Luke 10:20. They had been called “the little flock” and instructed to sell their property and give alms. Luke 12:32 and 33. The Apostles had received the Holy Spirit before Pentecost. John 20:22. It is not definitely stated in the Scriptures whether or not the Church of God began on the day of Pentecost. The Greek word for “church” is “ekklesia,” literally the “called out”. Some Israelites were certainly called out while Christ was on earth. But the Church of God was to be purchased with His own blood and Christ had to go to the Father before He could send: the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit in early Acts was to witness to Israel concerning Christ as Israel’s Prince and Saviour. Acts 5:32.

In the first nine chapters of Acts it was not lawful for the apostles to go to the Gentiles with the Word of God. Acts 10:28. So they preached to none but Jews only. Acts 11:19. Peter did not preach the unsearchable, or untraceable, riches of Christ to the Israelites, if indeed anyone did. But God wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision. Galatians 2:7 to 9. Peter preached to Israel none other things than Moses and the prophets said should come. Joel—David—Moses—Samuel—all the prophets—Amos. Acts 2:16; Acts 2:25 to 33; Acts 3:21 to 26; Acts 10:43; Acts 15:14.

Before we consider Philip’s Message in Acts 8, let us note several facts in the ministry of Peter and the Eleven in Acts 3 to 7.

a. Acts 3:14 to 21. In these verses we learn that God, was willing to consider Israel’s crime of killing the Prince of Life an act of ignorance (in answer to Christ’s prayer on the cross) and because God had foreordained that Christ should appear at the end of the ages and put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Therefore “repent” was God’s message to the nation and God will send Christ back to earth to restore the kingdom to Israel. This is quite a different message from the fact stated in Ephesians, that sinners, redeemed by grace, were raised up to be seated where Christ is in the highest heavenlies. Where in the Acts is it recorded that Peter and the Eleven told the Nation Israel to believe in the grace gospel, and by believing in the shed blood of Christ they would be justified and reconciled?

b. Acts 5:29 to 31. God had raised Christ from the dead to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. And the Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven to witness to this fact.This is quite different from the witness of the Holy Spirit concerning the Divine sonship and special inheritance of members of the Body of Christ. No mention is made of a message of salvation for Gentiles. The Holy Spirit was sent in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.

c. Acts 5:42. “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus Christ.” Study this in connection with the statement of Acts 8:1, that the Twelve remained in Jerusalem. In Matthew 23:38 and 39, the rejected Messiah said Israel’s house was left desolate. He was to send His Army to destroy them and burn up their city; armies were to compass their city. Matthew 22:7. Luke 21:20 to 22. Not one stone of the temple was to be left. Matthew 24:2. Because of the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross God postponed the judgment pronounced upon Israel, in Matthew 23:33 to 39, and their Jerusalem and their temple stood until after the “Acts” period had ended. During those years of grace God gave Israel favor with Rome and the Twelve had access to the Jerusalem temple for their testimony. Acts 21:18 to 28.

d. Acts 7:1 to 53. The message of Stephen to Israel ended with the statement that they were resisting the Holy Spirit, or committing the unpardonable sin, mentioned by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 12:31 and 32. Stephen saw the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. Christ called Himself the “Son of man” when ministering to Israel on earth. Stephen saw in heaven the same Son of man who warned Israel against the sin they were now committing, namely, rejecting the Holy Spirit, or committing the unpardonable sin.

II—PHILIP’S MESSAGE—ACTS 8

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria.” Acts 8:5.

Philip was numbered with those who were scattered, when Stephen was martyred, and preached the Word to none but Jews only. Acts 11:19. There was a difference between Samaritans and Gentiles. Matthew 10:5. In the light of Acts 10:28 and Acts 11:18, it is not probable that Philip, in the city of Samaria preached to Gentiles.

God performed great miracles by the hand of Philip. To the people of Samaria Philip preached Christ. Philip was filled with the Holy Spirit, full of faith and of good report. Acts 6:3 to 8.

“BUT WHEN THEY BELIEVED PHILIP PREACHING THE THINGS CONCERNING THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, THEY WERE BAPTIZED, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN:”

“WHEN THE APOSTLES WHICH WERE AT JERUSALEM HEARD THAT SAMARIA HAD RECEIVED THE WORD OF GOD, THEY SENT UNTO THEM PETER AND JOHN, WHO, WHEN THEY WERE COME DOWN, PRAYED FOR THEM THAT THEY MIGHT RECEIVE THE HOLY GHOST. THEN LAID THEY THEIR HANDS ON THEM, AND THEY RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST.”

In this ministry and Divine program of Philip, we observe something of the same order that prevailed in the ministry and Divine program of Peter and the Eleven at Jerusalem. In both of these ministries we observe that water baptism preceded the receiving of the Holy Spirit, and undoubtedly was a prerequisite for that reception.

The message that the risen Christ gave to the Eleven is recorded in Mark 16:13 to 18. In that message Christ clearly stated, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” He did not say “he that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.”

We observe in the order of Philip’s ministry that the people heard his gospel message, believed and were baptized. In accordance with Mark 16:15 and 16, they must have been saved. Several days after they received the Holy Spirit.

Undoubtedly these Samaritans, or Jews in Samaria, became members of some church when they believed. But were they, at that time, baptized by one Spirit into the One Body of Ephesians 1:19 to 22? Were they saved before they became members of that Body? Is this God’s order for today?

III. PAUL’S MESSAGE—ACTS 19.

In Ephesus were certain disciples who had believed John’s message for Israel. They had been baptized unto John’s baptism but had not received the Holy Spirit. They had not heard that the Holy Spirit had been given. Paul preached Christ Jesus unto them.

“WHEN THEY HEARD THIS THEY WERE BAPTIZED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS. AND WHEN PAUL HAD LAID HIS HANDS UPON THEM, THE HOLY SPIRIT CAME ON THEM; AND THEY SPAKE WITH TONGUES AND PROPHESIED.”

Acts 19:5 and 6.

There are some who believe that the translation of Acts 19:5, should be, “When they heard this having been baptized in the Lord Jesus.” This is rather doubtful. They suggest this translation because the Twelve Apostles received John’s water baptism and were not rebaptized on the day of Pentecost. But here we have again something of the same order that is found in both messages which we have considered, Peter’s and Philip’s.

Here, in Ephesus, there were both Jews and Greeks in the assembly. The record here seems to indicate that these twelve disciples were Jews, disciples of Apollos. Acts 18:25; Acts 19:7 and 8. Water baptism and imposition of hands preceded Holy Spirit baptism. Speaking with tongues and prophesying followed. This was about 54 A.D., or about twenty years after Pentecost. This is the last Bible record of any one receiving water baptism.

To the Church at Ephesus, this same Paul wrote, about nine years later, “There is one Body and one baptism.” Ephesians 4:3 to 5.

ONE BODY—ONE BAPTISM.

Which of these orders are for the One Body?

Perhaps the more we study the Book of Acts, the more we realize how little we really know about it. Doubtless the consideration of these messages have suggested some thoughts to our minds and hearts and we are ready to ask some questions.

God’s Program for Today.

Undoubtedly we have observed that no present day gifted spiritual teachers of the Word of God believe that any of these gospel programs are for today. Perhaps they eliminate the “imposition of hands” on the ground’s that that was only an apostolic prerogative. But in the light of I Corinthians 12:8 to 11, they cannot eliminate miracles and signs, by stating that they were intended for apostles only. If they eliminate them—and they must or acknowledge themselves powerless and faithless—they should give an intelligent Scriptural reason for so doing. God linked water baptism and signs together. They stand together, or fall together, in the Church of Christ.

These teachers teach dogmatically and positively that, if the believer has not already received the Holy Spirit, he should not be baptized with water. They also teach that the very moment that believer receives the Holy Spirit, he becomes a member of the Bible Church, called in Ephesians and Colossians, the Body of Christ. Most of them believe that Peter’s message of Acts 2:38 preached believing Israelites into the Body of Christ, and yet they acknowledge that that message is not the Lord’s message for today. By such an acknowledgment they teach that there are two ways, at least of becoming members of the Body of Christ, and in one way water baptism was altogether essential. They must also acknowledge there were different ways of getting into the Body of Christ, if that Body was there.

Who can read the Scriptures in connection with the three messages we have quoted and compare them with the experience of Cornelius, recorded in Acts 10:34 to 47, and say that Cornelius did not receive the Holy Spirit before he was water-baptized? But in the light of Acts 10:20 and I Corinthians 1:22 we might say this reversal of order was not because Cornelius was a Gentile, but because the Jews required a sign. God gave the tongues so Peter could say, “Can any man forbid water?”

But if we insist that with the Gentile believers, water baptism followed Holy Spirit baptism and with Israelite believer’s water baptism was a prerequisite for Holy Spirit baptism, how can we then be consistent and say, that the Body of (Christ, in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile, began on the day of Pentecost?

Surely we must turn to Romans and Ephesians to get our message of unmixed grace; for if we get our message and program from Acts 19, we must bear in mind that, associated with the last record of water baptism, which preceded the receiving of the Holy Spirit, there was the imposition of hands, Holy Spirit baptism, tongues, prophesying, casting out of demons, the blessing of handkerchiefs and aprons for physical headings.

What God, hath joined together let no man put asunder until God does. “Let us go on to perfection.’