The Fork in the Road: On Imperfect Baptisms, Part 4.4 (Further on Apollos and the laying on of hands)

Guy said,

(1) The Ephesian disciples would know they received the Spirit because when Paul laid his hands on them, they prophesied and spoke in tongues.

That’s entirely true, but it’s not the only way to know whether someone has the Spirit.

(2) i don’t see why you must conclude from the text that Paul’s question was the test of a valid conversion. Those disciples may have been in the same situation as those of Samaria in Acts 8 who had been baptized but not received the Spirit who needed the laying on of the apostles’ hands. Paul being an apostle was in a position to give this to these men in Ephesus if they didn’t already have it.

I disagree. Paul didn’t ask whether they’d received miraculous gifts of the Spirit. He asked whether they’d received the Spirit. And all saved people (and only saved people) have the Spirit.

(Rom 8:9-11 ESV) 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Therefore, if they’d received the Spirit, they were saved. If not, not. It only makes sense that Paul would have asked first about the Spirit.

I think we should be like Paul. When a question comes up regarding who is saved, we should first ask whether they’ve received the Spirit.

(Gal 3:2-7 ESV) 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith — 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

The Spirit comes by faith in Jesus. Therefore, Paul asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Act 19:2 ESV). Since they didn’t — they had a faith problem. Thus Paul teaches —

(Act 19:4 ESV) “… believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”

This quite naturally leads to their baptism.

(3) … If Christian-baptism-being-performed-incorrectly never came up in Paul’s time, why would he have asked those questions? But it did arise after Paul’s time. (The in-whose-name question arose in Paul’s time, but mode? purpose?) How then does that mark a difference in kind from Paul’s theology? This is simply a non-sequitir.

Not really following you, but the baptism of John was for the remission of sins and not for receipt of the Spirit and not into the name of Jesus. It isn’t a mode question. And as I described earlier, the best reading of the conversation Paul had with the Ephesians is that they didn’t have the right faith.

Paul’s corrective teaching was to “believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” (Acts 19:4). It’s hard to see why Paul would have provided this teaching unless it was needed — especially given how succinct Luke’s summary of the event is.

And I’ve always taught that we are to baptize those who come to faith in Jesus through our teaching. But then, that’s nearly the universal view of all Christian denominations. Of course, Paul baptized them.

(4a) … i didn’t argue that Paul preached a different baptism to them or anything like that. My point was that he re-baptized them period. Their previous baptism wasn’t sufficient. Their new understanding of things didn’t render their previous baptism sufficient. They still needed re-baptized. Thus some degree of understanding is required for a baptism to do what it’s supposed to do (“valid”).

You keep referencing an “imperfect baptism” as though any level of expectation or criteria is just demanding perfection of someone. But the real matter is that there is some bottom line such that anything less is simply not a baptism of any kind, imperfect or otherwise. What are the minimum criteria? You still haven’t seemed to get there at all.

Peter told his Pentecost crowd what they were being baptized for. Paul was told by Ananias what he was being baptized for. Is there any place in Acts where the texts makes clear that a person most certainly did not know what they were being baptized for? Think about what a text would have to say for that to be true.

I readily concede that the baptisms performed by Christians in Acts were done correctly and that their converts understood the purposes of the baptism. Of course. And that certainly shows what should be the normative practice today. And therefore we should baptize believers by immersion into the forgiveness of their sins. Of course.

And where baptism is performed properly, the Spirit is received and forgiveness entered into at the moment of baptism. Like I’ve said, I’m boringly orthodox.

But what if that doesn’t happen? What if someone is baptized incorrectly despite a genuine faith and penitence? What if they are taught by scholars that “baptism” includes baptism by pouring or as an infant and so they never receive proper baptism? Well, the closest thing I can find to an example of that is Apollos — and he wasn’t re-baptized.

Oh, and then there are the apostles — who were never baptized into Jesus because they were “clean” (John 13:10; 15:3)–

(John 13:10-11 ESV) 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

(John 15:3 ESV) 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

And David, who was forgiven without animal sacrifice. And there are others. But they all had faith/faithfulness — and God always honors his covenant with Abraham to count faith as righteousness.

We want to create a rule that binds God — but God makes the rules. God has promised to save at the moment of baptism by the blood of Jesus. But God has also promised to save all with faith in/faithfulness to Jesus. His design is that the two promises coincide in baptism. But he will keep his promises based on the hearts of those who come to him, not the quality of their instruction on baptism.

Therefore, I’m not convinced by the argument that those with a genuine faith but without a proper baptism have no promise. In fact, the scriptures make more promises to those with faith than to those with faith + baptism. And God keeps his promises.

(4b) … But they didn’t receive the Spirit upon the moment of baptism, but when Paul laid his hands on them. i suppose in a way this still makes your point, but it doesn’t counter mine though. If baptism was needed for receiving the Spirit, a new understanding was needed for baptism.

Yes, a new understanding was needed: “believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus” (19:4).

Although the Spirit came upon them when Paul laid hands on them, the laying on of hands was part of the baptismal ceremony. Remember: you aren’t saved unless you possess the Spirit. Romans 8:9-11 is quite clear, as are many other verses.

Now, if we take the position that the laying on of hands is essential to the receipt of the Spirit — what about the millions in the Churches of Christ who were baptized with no laying on of hands? It seems their baptism was less than perfect as the laying on of hands was not only part of the rite but the very moment when the Spirit “came on them” (19:6).

(Act 8:17 ESV) 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 9:17 ESV) So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

(Act 19:6 ESV) 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

(1Ti 4:14 ESV) 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

(Heb 6:1-2 ESV)Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Many early church fathers speak of laying hands on converts following baptism. Hippolytus Apostolic Tradition xxi; Tertullian Bapt. 7.

Every time I mention this practice — tied to the receipt of the Spirit and amply evidenced in the scriptures — I’m assured that God won’t refuse to save over a failure to have hands laid on the convert. And I think that’s right. God won’t damn over a mistake in ritual, given that the heart of salvation and receipt of the Spirit is faith in/faithfulness to Jesus.*

(5a) Luke famously omits details. …

(5b) The fact that Luke doesn’t say Apollos was re-baptized doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Luke doesn’t record anyone in the church singing for the first several chapters of the book. Should we thus conclude no one in the church ever sang? The point is, when it doesn’t say, we can’t make a knowledge claim either way. If you can make a knowledge claim based on what the text doesn’t say, i don’t see why conservatives can’t do the very same thing concerning instrumental music.

If the text doesn’t say one way or the other, then this event in Acts 18 differs from Acts 19 only in what is mentioned, not necessarily in what happened. Whether it differed in what happened, we don’t know because the text doesn’t tell us. Thus Acts 18 is not some “proof text” for an exception to what we read in Acts 19. –again, not unless you’re willing to presume upon silence.

1. The text says, I believe, that Apollos already had the Spirit. He certainly gave every evidence of having the Spirit. “Spoke boldly” is used repeatedly in Acts of preaching by God’s power. Acts 9:27-28; 13:46; 14:3; 19:8; 26:26. In 9:27-28, Paul was commended as being a genuine believer because he “spoke boldly.”

2. Paul teaches in Rom 8:9-11 that all with the Spirit are saved and none without the Spirit are saved.

3. Therefore, he was already saved. In fact, some conservative Church of Christ authors agree with this conclusion, arguing that his baptism in John was sufficient because it was pre-Pentecost. I disagree with that analysis, but agree that he was not rebaptized.

4. The fact that no baptism is recorded (when Luke repeatedly reports baptisms of converts — despite his failure to report many other details) only makes sense.

But this is hardly the central proof text of my thesis. It’s just one of many examples. If my interpretation of Acts 18 were shown to be false tomorrow, it wouldn’t change my opinion, because my conclusions are also built on much weightier considerations. I believe I understand it aright, but I came to my conclusions for reasons entirely independent of Acts 18.

It really comes down to who God is and so who he reveals himself to be through Jesus.

There’s one thing that seems clear from a reading of Acts — the book is much more about the work of the Spirit than the mode of baptism. Indeed, Acts is filled with examples of baptism that are outside the scriptural norm —

* The apostles

* The Samaritans

* Cornelius and his household

* Apollos

are all examples where receipt of the Spirit does not coincide with baptism — and all with the Spirit are saved and all without the Spirit are lost (Rom 8:9-11). In fact, it’s  clear that God will give his Spirit to all with faith — but he’ll handle the timing as suits him and not according to some supposed law binding on God.

On the other hand, I’ll agree that the normative practice and teaching in the New Testament is that the Spirit is received and salvation granted coincident with water baptism by immersion. But God plainly is willing to work outside that pattern when it suits him.


* Actually, I’d like to re-institute the laying on of hands, because it’s symbolic of giving a mission.

(Act 13:2-3 ESV)  2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

And I think we routinely fail to teach our converts that they are being saved into God’s redemption mission. Rather, we tend to emphasize the benefits of salvation (forgiveness) to the exclusion of the mission. Laying hands on converts to commission them into the work of the Kingdom would be a profoundly apostolic and, I think, powerful way to communicate this message to the convert and to the church.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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17 Responses to The Fork in the Road: On Imperfect Baptisms, Part 4.4 (Further on Apollos and the laying on of hands)

  1. JMF says:

    1) Jay—

    Functionally, how would we go about asking if one had received the Spirit? As you said in your book, there are atheists that blow us away in ways that look like Spirit fruit.

    2) …And what would you say to a Word-only person? Ask them if they received the Spirit and I assume they'd answer "no", since the Spirit is the bible.

    That is the thing that really made your "imperfect baptism" argument resonate with me. You've mentioned imperfect faith and imperfect penitence…well, what about if we don't understand the GIFT we get for being baptized?! We can know the "why" all day long (FOR forgiveness)…but about the actual end result?

    So we in the COC need to offer grace to one another, for we need a lot of grace ourselves. Because half of us are COMPLETELY wrong about the gift we receive…and I'm sure all of us are wrong about it to some extent!

  2. Guy says:


    i appreciate the lengthy attention. i hope you'll permit me several comments to try to wade through it all.

    Let me start with what you said here (after i claimed that Paul's concern was whether or not he needed to lay hands on these people so that they could receive the Spirit if perhaps the person who baptized them did not have this ability):

    "I disagree. Paul didn’t ask whether they’d received miraculous gifts of the Spirit. He asked whether they’d received the Spirit. And all saved people (and only saved people) have the Spirit."

    Even if you're correct that a plethora of other passages teach that all saved people receive the Spirit, that's still not what *Acts 19* portrays. Yes, Paul asked them–did you receive the Spirit when you believed? How does the *text itself* develop that question? Even if it's true that every person receives the Spirit simultaneously with being baptized and that this is a mark of being saved and even if its by implication true of these Ephesians disciples, that still doesn't change the fact that this is not what Luke wrote.

    How did *Luke* develop that question? Luke wrote Acts to Theophilus. Arguably, Luke wrote acts in a way that would help Theophilus understand. Luke doesn't mention these Ephesian disciples receiving the Spirit til verse 6.

    And Luke doesn't say that they "received the miraculous gifts of the Spirit." Luke says that "the Holy Spirit came upon them." Luke wrote a question about particular people receiving the Spirit and then speaks about those particular people receiving the Spirit five verses later, and doesn't mention any other reception in between. Luke arranged this passage this way, yet you are claiming that verse 6 does not refer to verse 1? Was Luke really that enigmatic in his record written to Theophilus? Would Theophilus have really been expected to fill in a blank in the way you are doing in order to understand Luke's story?

    The only reason why i can think that you'd disconnect these verses is if you came to this passage with a preconceived notion of Spirit-reception and then read it into the text. Luke does not in this passage make distinctions or use language like "received the miraculous gifts of the Spirit." i also don't read where Luke makes a distinction between "receiving the miraculous gifts of the Spirit" and "receiving the Spirit." We do have a case of Luke saying that people had been baptized but had not received the Spirit (Acts 8). But nowhere does Luke talk about people who received some 'ordinary' measure of the Spirit distinctly from receive some 'miraculous,' laying-on-of-hands measure of the Spirit. These ideas are not introduced by Luke in the book of Acts. They do not arise out of this text. These ideas have to be brought to the text by an interpreter.

    If you find some such distinction elsewhere in Scripture from Paul or John, fine. But we're not reading Paul or John. We're reading Luke. How does Luke define terms and present the story? *Luke* pens that Paul asked people about receiving the Spirit, and then 5 verses later *Luke* pens that "the Holy Spirit came upon them." i can't conceive of any reason from the text itself why we would insist that verse 6 isn't a resolution to the question asked in verse 1.

    Further you wrote:

    "Therefore, if they’d received the Spirit, they were saved. If not, not. It only makes sense that Paul would have asked first about the Spirit.

    I think we should be like Paul. When a question comes up regarding who is saved, we should first ask whether they’ve received the Spirit."

    (1) Paul asked "did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" i believe that "believe" in Acts refers to a person becoming saved. i can't think of any clear case where Luke makes a distinction of someone who believes but wasn't saved. Thus "when you believed" has the forced of "when you were saved," or "when you became a Christian" or "when you converted" etc. etc.

    You are saying that asking if someone had received the Holy Spirit was a test of whether or not they were saved. If that's true, then Paul's question amounts to nothing more than "were you saved when you were saved?" If Paul was inquiring into whether or not they had the HS only to discover whether or not they were saved, then he already answered his own question by assuming they had believed. His question becomes useless.

    (2) If what you're saying is true, if it is the case that Paul was inquiring into whether they received the Spirit in the same way that all people do when they are saved, then how would they have known whether they'd received the Spirit? How did you know you received the Spirit upon baptism? If you were baptized 5 minutes ago, how would you know that the Spirit slipped in there in the process? How would you have answered Paul's question? Suppose the Ephesian disciples had received the Spirit in the way you're talking about–what would their answer to Paul have looked like?


  3. Guy says:


    Regarding the part where you said you weren't really following me:

    In the previous post, you said this:

    "When we question the validity of a baptism, we don’t ask what Paul asked, and therefore we must not have the same theology as Paul. That’s a problem."

    i am claiming this is a non-sequitir. Surely you have asked questions that Paul didn't ask. In fact, right now you are asking and attempting to answer:

    "What if someone is baptized incorrectly despite a genuine faith and penitence? What if they are taught by scholars that “baptism” includes baptism by pouring or as an infant and so they never receive proper baptism?"

    This is not something Paul asked. But i doubt you think you've departed from the same gospel Paul preached as a result of examining this question.

    There are plenty of questions that Christians asked in the years after Paul because circumstances arose that Paul did not personally have to face. For instance, John had to deal with gnosticism. In fact, John gave people tests for gnostic teachers. Does that mean John doesn't have the same theology as Paul? No.

    It simply doesn't necessarily follow that if we ask questions Paul didn't ask, we have a different theology than Paul.


  4. Guy says:


    "Therefore, I’m not convinced by the argument that those with a genuine faith but without a proper baptism have no promise. In fact, the scriptures make more promises to those with faith than to those with faith + baptism. And God keeps his promises."

    This, again, assumes that "faith" in the NT never *includes* baptism. i think this is indicative of the CoC conceding crucial points to the Baptists in debates. "Faith" does not always refer to a mere inward state. It certainly included baptism in the very passage we're discussing (Acts 19:1, 3).

    i think the problem is that because we have so many debates with Baptists over the necessary "steps" of salvation, we assume that when the Bible uses the word "faith," it too uses that term as though it was but one "step" in a plan of salvation to the exclusion of the others. But i think that is us reading our situation into the Bible at least as much as the Reformers read their beef with the Catholics into Paul. i think the Bible only rarely employs the term "faith" in a way that is comparable to the "step" idea.


  5. Jay Guin says:


    It is, of course, true that we will often ask other questions. But do we ever ask what Paul asked?

  6. Jay Guin says:


    I'm not persuaded that the word "faith" includes baptism. For example —

    * Paul teaches in Rom and Gal that God is honoring his covenant with Abraham by crediting faith as righteousness. But he didn't require Abraham to be baptized. Indeed, as Paul argues, God didn't even require circumcision until many years later.

    * Consider, for example —

    (Eph 4:4-6 ESV) 4 There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

    Paul plainly speaks of them as two different things.

    (Mar 16:16 ESV) 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

    Assuming the text to be valid — which is disputed — Jesus speaks of baptism and belief as distinct events.

    And there's just no way from an etymological standpoint to find "baptism" in the meaning of "faith." The readers of the New Testament could not have read the text and reached that conclusion.

    The only way to find "baptism" in "faith" is to beg the question, that is, to begin with the assumption that faith cannot possibly be sufficient to save without baptism — which assumption forces the conclusion that surely the faith-verses include baptism. But that's merely to restate your beginning assumption.

    I do agree that the "step" approach is not really how the Bible describes the process. Rather, "faith" includes in its Greek usage the sense of faithfulness and even loyalty. In fact, the word is often translated as faithfulness in the scriptures. And that means repentance and faith are heavily overlapped concepts. You can't have saving faith without having repented because saving faith requires a change in loyalties.

  7. Guy says:


    i don't think we need to ask what Paul asked in Acts 19 because i don't believe the apostles are any longer making their rounds to lay hands on people so that the HS will come upon them.

    Do you believe that God intends for prophecy, tongues, healings, interpretations, etc. to be a continuing presence even in the 21st century church?


  8. Guy says:


    i did not claim that the NT *always* uses "faith" to include baptism. i rejected the claim that the NT *never* uses it that way. i believe it *sometimes* clearly uses "faith" to include the entirety of conversion, which would thus include baptism.

    i think it's erroneous to think the entire Bible, having multiple authors with multiple purposes for writing at different time, can only use one word one way every time. Take any six people that you know personally, and interview them one by one, asking them to employ at least one heavily loaded term as they answer questions. Do you genuinely think that the six of them will not differ in the slightest as to what they understand or imply about the content of that term?


  9. Jay Guin says:


    Paul didn't ask, "Did you do miracles when you believed?" he asked whether they received the Holy Spirit. All Christians have the Spirit.

  10. Jay Guin says:


    It's not enough to argue that sometimes some authors of the Bible use "faith" to include baptism. To persuade that the verses I cited in Part 2 require baptism, you'd have to show that, in context, each verse includes baptism in its use of "faith" — and do so without assuming that faith is never enough for God to save.

  11. Guy says:


    *Luke* pens that Paul asks the question "Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?"

    *Luke* pens the event that the very people to whom that question was asked had "The Holy Spirit come upon them" when Paul laid his hands on them.

    Please identify for me the place in *this* text, Acts 19, where Luke makes clear he is referring to something *other* than what those people received when Paul laid his hands on them. Can you show me where *Luke* in this passage offers the explanation you're offering?


  12. Guy says:


    i admit i pulled up part 2 when you wrote it but then didn't read it and never got back to it. i don't have time at the moment to go through each and every one. But skimming through the list, i don't see why i necessarily have to understand *any* of them as *merely* referring to a person, individual state. (Man, especially John. That one seems easy. He takes the time to show that he uses that term in a loaded fashion.) You've admitted the term denotes loyalty and faithfulness. If that is true, then i don't see why it's difficult to understand that the term is loaded with whatever particular marks of loyalty God requires of a person at a given time.


  13. Jay Guin says:


    The Churches of Christ (and many others) treat the receipt of miraculous gifts as something different from the "ordinary" gift of the Spirit — although the scriptures just say "Holy Spirit." We create a distinction where the New Testament authors see none. Rather, they tell us that those with the Spirit have differing gifts — and tongues is but one of many gifts someone might receive. And in the various lists of gifts given, there are always gifts listed that don't look particularly miraculous. We impose a category difference where there is none.

    Thus, in Acts 19, Luke says "The Holy Spirit came on them." He doesn't say "the miraculous measure of the Spirit" came on him.

    Because it says "Holy Spirit," it's hard to read the passage as saying they received the ordinary measure when they were baptized and then a second, miraculous measure when hands were laid on them. That's not what it says.

    Peter preaches from Joel the prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit — when sons and daughters will prophesy — and promises the same Spirit to his listeners if they'd only repent and be baptized. And yet there's no record of those baptized speaking in tongues or doing miracles. In fact, the text says,

    (Act 2:43 ESV) 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.

    This clearly implies that the miracles were being done by the apostles only, even though the new converts had been promised the same Spirit received by the apostles and promised by Joel.

    (Act 2:33 ESV) 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

    How could they have understood the "gift of Holy Spirit" as anything other than the "promise of the Holy Spirit" (parallel genitives), with "poured out" being a plain allusion to Joel?

    The Spirit is the Spirit, and he gives gifts as he pleases. Sometimes the Spirit has a flair for the dramatic. Sometimes for the subtle. He's like the wind — very hard to predict and not easily tied down by rules and categorizations.

  14. Guy says:


    i agree that the text does not say that these people received some kind of indwelling simultaneously with baptism, and then some other kind of HS upon Paul's laying on of hands. That was my point. That's not what Luke says. Luke says the Spirit came upon them at the laying on of Paul's hands.

    But i believe i see where this is really leading. The handful of questions we keep butting heads on seem to me to be hinged on your understanding of the Spirit and of the relation of Bible covenants. Is that a fair assessment? So unless i buy into the entire Spirit-theory and covenantal theology being presented, i'll likely never agree. That's a tall order.

    i would like to point out this though. It seems you're positions are:

    (1) *Everyone* who believes is saved (or has God's promise or however you want to word it).

    (2) Paul asked the people whether they had the Spirit *in order to determine whether they were saved.*

    If (1) is true, then it still renders Paul's question useless. If you're right, Paul would've known they were saved merely based on their having believed. Finding out if they had the Spirit wouldn't tell him anything he didn't already know.


  15. Jay Guin says:


    There are several reasons which I consider to be independently sufficient to support my understanding of baptism. But I do agree that the covenant argument and Holy Spirit argument are among the strongest arguments.

    I understand why many within the Churches of Christ disagree with me on the Holy Spirit, but not sure why the covenant argument is even controversial. It's unfamiliar — not commonly taught in the Churches — but plainly laid out in Rom and Gal.

    (Gal 3:5-9 ESV) 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith– 6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

    In Eph 19, Paul wanted to determine whether they were saved. He didn't ask about their baptism. He asked about their receipt of the Spirit. That makes perfect sense when you realize that Paul considers those with the Spirit and those who are saved to be exactly the same people. John says the same thing in 1 John.

    Having learned they likely weren't saved, as they had never heard of the Spirit, Paul inquires into their baptism. We, of course, would ask about the baptism first, faith second or repentance second, and we'd never ask about the Spirit.

    You assume he asked about their faith before he asked about the Spirit, but that's not what's recorded. Remember, Paul repeatedly teaches that the Spirit is the earnest or deposit or down payment of our inheritance. It's what assures us that we're saved. He proceeded very consistently with his theology.

  16. Guy says:


    i think the New Covenant is a fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham. But i don't think it's identical to nor a continuation of the Abrahamic covenant. Christ and His Kingdom are the fulfillment of that covenant.

    i believe Paul in Galatians is contrasting Christianity with Judaism. Not *any* and *all* systems that require "works" versus *any* and *all* submissive faith. i think the "any and all" stuff comes from us reading our history into Galatians, not from Paul's immediate purpose and audience.

    The Galatians didn't get all the benefits of Christ from adopting any of the marks of Judaism. Jews may claim to be sons of Abraham, and genetically they were. But Christians are the heirs of the promises to Abraham (and really the Jews were heirs, but they rejected Christ). Pursuing Judaism then was a step backwards, unproductive, etc. Adopting the marks of Judaism didn't gain them anything. However, pursuing various elements of Christianity did give them benefits–the Spirit and miracles from God; God supplied tangible evidence that becoming disciples of Christ was a step in the right direction for them. But they received no such evidence when they started adhering to Judaistic practices.

    So Paul gives them a practical test that what they started with–what Paul taught them upfront–was what God really wanted. What did Paul give them? "Faith" meaning a mere inward state? Here's another case of a book where a writer makes clear that "faith" is meant to reference more than a mere inward state: Gal 3:26-27. How does the "for" function in vs. 27 if not epexegetically?

    Christianity vs. Judaism is what i think Paul had in mind. Paul was comparing Christianity with a different religion, not some portions of Christianity with other portions of Christianity. i don't see anything in there that forces me to conclude Paul was offering commentary on any Reformation-era-type debate. But i do see how given the particular circumstances in the Reformation and the particular doctrines which still exist in various forms today (a version of which has been a never-ending conflict between CoC's and Baptists), that it's very easy to read those ideas *into* Paul's words.


  17. Guy says:


    (1) i didn't assume he *asked* about faith before asking about the Spirit. Paul never *asked* about their faith. He *assumed* they had faith ("*when* you believed" 19:1). And if merely believing is sufficient for God to save you (which is what i'm gathering that you are arguing in other places), then again, your position implies that Paul asked the equivalent, "Were you saved when you were saved?" You've still got him asking a pointless question that would've afforded him no more information than he already had.

    Interestingly, if Paul already assumed they had faith ("when you believed" 19:1), and if you're right that Paul was trying to find out *whether* they were saved, then that alone proves that Paul didn't think that having faith was sufficient to be saved.

    (2) You may be right–Paul may have believed that to have the Spirit is to be saved. i'm not trying to debate that point. What i am contending though is that you've imported that theology in from Paul's works. You showed up to the passage in Acts already holding on to some beliefs about Paul.

    But *Luke* is telling the story here. And i may be wrong, but i doubt that Theophilus had a copy of Romans and Galatians in his hands to use Paul's theology to make sense of Luke's work. i would think that Luke would write in such a way that it wasn't necessary for Theophilus to do so.

    How does Luke arrange the information in such a way as to explain things to Theophilus? From Acts 8, it's already been made clear to Theophilus that the Holy Spirit comes upon people by the laying on of the apostles hands, and that making sure this happens was important enough for *Jewish* apostles to travel to *Samaria* just to lay hands on people. [Just a curious aside–do you hold that the Samaritan converts were lost until the apostles laid hands on them since prior to that point they hadn't received the Spirit?] From Acts 10 and 11, it's already been made clear to Theophilus that Cornelius and his household receiving the Spirit was an *exception*–an event which Peter had not seen happen since Pentecost (11:15).

    Acts 8 was the last time Theophilus read about the Spirit coming upon people at the laying on of an apostle's hands. Romans 8 is not a part of Acts. Theophilus doesn't have Romans 8 to depend on in order to make sense of Acts 19. Theophilus has Acts. And if Luke's objective is to give a comprehensible account to Theophilus, then surely these two passages would've connected in Theophilus' mind as he read. If Acts 8 records a need for apostles' laying-on-of-hands to receive the Spirit, and if the apostle Paul laid his hands on people, then Theophilus would have likely connected the need from Acts 8 with the event in Acts 19. Thus, Acts 19 conveys Paul doing what only apostles could do because apostles didn't grow on trees and disciples needed what apostles (like Paul) had to give.

    Because *Luke* was writing Acts and not anyone else, and because Luke was writing to *Theophilus* and not me or you or anyone in the 21st century, and because this is how i reason *Theophilus* was likely to understand the passage, i conclude that this is what the passage is intended to convey.


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