(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
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.