The Salvation of the Jews: John the Baptist, Part 4 (I baptize with water)

jewish_starFinally, Matthew records John’s prophecy regarding the Messiah —

(Mat 3:11-12 ESV) “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

John speaks of the Messiah, declaring that he is, in comparison to him, less than a slave. Indeed, while John baptizes with water, the power of forgiveness is found not in the water but in the covenant promises of God found in the Torah. But Torah has been around for 1,500 years by this time, and it’s proven inadequate. Something needs to change.

And so John distinguishes his baptism from that of the Messiah. The Messiah’s baptism will be “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Some see “fire” as a reference to the tongues of fire at Pentecost, but up to this point, John’s references to the prophets referred to passages in which fire was the fire of divine wrath.

(Jer 7:20 ESV) “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.”

(Mal 4:1 ESV)  “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

We miss it because we don’t know our prophets and we don’t read in light of the prophets. But John’s audience unquestionably heard “fire” as a reference to the destruction that comes from God’s wrath.

But the Holy Spirit, well, the Spirit had been promised by Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Joel — at least — to come when the Exile ends and the Kingdom is established. The usual prophetic language was that the Spirit would be “poured out” — like water.

(Isa 32:14-15 ESV)  14 For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks;  15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. 

(Isa 44:3 ESV)  3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 

(Eze 39:29 ESV) 29 “And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

(Joe 2:28-29 ESV)  28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.  29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”

There are also verses that speak of a fountain of forgiveness —

(Jer 17:13-14 ESV)  13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.  14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.

(Zec 13:1 ESV) “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.”

The image of forgiveness through baptism, accompanied by the receipt of the Spirit, would have been powerful in the minds of Jews raised on such passages. Indeed, to “immerse” the Jews with the Holy Spirit would have been heard as a magnificent, glorious promise. It’s one thing to have or possess the Spirit, but to be immersed in God’s Holy Spirit would have been a blessing beyond words. The Spirit would not just be poured out, like an anointing, but there’d be enough Spirit to go for a swim! Forgiveness sufficient for a bath promised to a desert people for whom water was a rare and precious commodity.

So we have to return to —

(Jer 31:31-34 ESV) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 

How does the new covenant promised by Jeremiah differ from the Mosaic covenant? Well, the Spirit will write God’s Torah within his children and on their hearts. He will circumcise their hearts so that they can love him with all their mind, soul, and strength. And this will be the Spirit they will receive in an immersion from the Messiah.

As a result of the Spirit and the hearts that are changed, God will forgive their sins — in language that echoes (you guessed it) Lev 26 — speaking of the end of Exile and of the curses that follow from rebelling against God’s Torah.

(Mat 3:12 ESV)  12 “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

A winnowing fork is used to toss wheat grains into the air so that the kernel is separated from the chaff. The kernel is used to bake bread. The chaff is burned as waste.

“Unquenchable fire” means a fire that cannot be put out. That is, once judgment is rendered, there is no second chance, no appeal.

The time is short, John is saying, and God’s judgment will soon come.

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.
This entry was posted in Connection of Church with Israel, Soteriology, The Salvation of the Jews, The Salvation of the Jews, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to The Salvation of the Jews: John the Baptist, Part 4 (I baptize with water)

  1. Price says:

    I sometimes wonder if the Jews, this raucous bunch who couldn’t even see the Messiah when He came and worked miracles among them would be so up to date and immersed in scripture.. Perhaps you give them too much credit ? Of them all, it would seem that the Pharisees would have been the most learned…and they for the most part seemed to have missed it entirely…. Peter later says that when he saw the Cornelius experience that he finally understood what Jesus had told them about being baptized with the HS.. I find it hard to accept that the average Jew was that well informed… but what do I know.

  2. Monty says:


    Everything you say sounds good and certainly was true whether they understood the magnitude of it or not, but Price has made a good point IMO. I think you need to address Peter’s comments or post a link if you’ve already done so. Peter’s comments are strange to me(and it seems Price too) if Peter some several years later(after Pentecost) says that what happened to Cornelius and family jarred his memory about what Jesus had said about baptizing them with the Spirit. Most certainly this was something different than what had been happening to every baptized believer since Pentecost up until this time in Acts 10. If not, then what aspect of the Cornelius experience jogged his memory? Because they were Gentile? I don’t think so. The Holy Spirit falling on them and their experiencing (all of them) tongue speaking is what triggered his remark it seems to me. Was this a second pouring out(baptism) of the Spirit? The first being Pentecost(to the Jews) and the second in Acts 10 (to the Gentiles) “repentance had been granted to the Gentiles”, separated by however many years it was? Now Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled.

  3. rich constant says:

    hey Price are you the same price it was on John marks website 6 years ago?

  4. rich constant says:

    QUITE Honestly I don’t understand how you guys are missing it, the answer, to your question. but then again why’s it taking mankind 2000 years to figure out the curse.
    I mean go figure, just think how wrapped up in tradition we are.
    but then we don’t think we are! Do we?
    you guys should play catch with that question about Peter around for a while. I think of OF THE question As just a Fat slow one thrown over the plate
    ” remember the mother of GROWTH is failure”!
    WHY Keep looking for growth when you’re afraid to fail.
    or wait a minute that’s change, that takes me out of my comfort zone.
    what did Timothy get from call what did Paul tell Timothy to continue to do.
    isn’t this supposed to be a mystery.
    God’s mystery. I could give you a few hints but should be able to piece of little something together here read John 14 thru 17 that would be chapter.
    with all that’s been said you guys should be able to read that and the answer becomes obvious

  5. Price says:

    Rich, I can’t remember what I had to eat last week much less remember if I was on a web site 6 years ago.. .LOL.. But, I have exchanged some thoughts with him in the past…

  6. rich constant says:

    Alrighty now wasn’t one of those post saying that you were going to take a class of his in summer school?

  7. Price says:

    Nope… I’m 57.. no summer school for me !!! 🙂

  8. rich constant says:

    I’m sorry that you might take one of those classes in summer school you were talking about maybe taking someone to teach something else but in any case that’s the post I remember amongst other things that you have said.
    of course it that be you! 🙂

  9. rich constant says:

    Rats! I was getting ready to drop that picture in a hole blessings price

  10. rich constant says:

    This dang thing
    Drop that pigeon in a hole!

  11. rich constant says:

    You know Jesus never challenge the Pharisees or the SadduceeS!
    then poor old Peter he was never wrong.

  12. rich constant says:

    Jesus never said!
    Oh ye of little faith…
    I wonder what that meant I know what it means to us what does it mean to them!
    these are all simple questions

  13. Price on August 7, 2015 at 11:02 am
    Rich, I can’t remember what I had to eat last week much less remember if I was on a web site 6 years ago.. .LOL.. But, I have exchanged some thoughts with him in the past…

    PRICE ? if you want me to buy that one…



    HE HE



    I<LL STOP MAKING all of this good nonsense and throw out an answer in about an hour or so?
    u know what they say some times ya can't see the forest for the tree
    Don't ask me who THEY are….lol

    ya ever notice this
    ROMANS 1
    1:1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gos-pel of God. 1:2 This gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 1:3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, 1:4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1:5 Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name. 1:6 You also are among them, called to belong to Jesus Christ. 1:7 To all those loved by God in Rome, called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
    Paul’s Desire to Visit Rome
    1:8 First of all, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world. 1:9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit by preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness that I continually remember you

    whom I serve in my spirit by preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness that I continually remember you 1:10 and I always ask in my prayers, if perhaps now at last I may succeed in visiting you according to the will of God

    1:11 For I long to see you, so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 1:12 that is, that we may be mutually comforted by one another’s faith, both yours and mine.

    see anything similar between…1:11 and 16:25
    see anything similar between…1:1 – 1:10…AND…16:25—16:27

    16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that had been kept secret for long ages,

    16:26 but now is disclosed, and through the prophetic scrip-tures has been made known to all the nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – 16:27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory forever! Amen.

  15. Jay Guin says:


    Actually, I think JTB was much easier for the Jews to understand than for us. We have 2,000 years of church theology to lay aside just to get to the Law and the Prophets — and we Christian largely do not know either Torah or Jeremiah at all. The Jews of JTB’s day knew no NT (wasn’t written, hadn’t happened) but they’d studied the First Testament (Tanakh) their entire lives. They may not have been expert, but they knew the Tanakh better than us because it was all they studied. (School was about the Tanakh. They had no science or algebra to study. Just learn a trade and the Law and the Prophets.)

    “Baptized with the Holy Spirit” would have sounded to them like “be immersed with the Holy Spirit.” Even if they didn’t know the prophetic associations of the Spirit with water, “immerse” makes the point plainly enough. “Immerse” would have brought about thoughts of the mikveh, the Greek baths, perhaps even a swim in the sea. There were very limited times when a First Century Jew would have found himself immersed — only in the mikveh, when bathing, or when swimming (but the Jews didn’t swim if they could help it. They were a desert people and feared the sea.) So most likely, they would have thought of bathing or washing in a mikveh.

    We think of a religious rite, but there was no such rite when JTB began his work — certainly not in the passive voice. “To be immersed” would not sound like the washings of the Torah, because those were done by the person being washed — active voice. To be immersed was actually a very foreign concept. You also bathed yourself and you washed yourself in the mikveh and you bathed yourself in the Greek baths. To be bathed or immersed was, well, child-like. Adults bathed themselves.

    And so the sense of humility would have been immediately understood utterly without serious reflection on the Law and Prophets. It was in their culture and history as a people.

  16. Jay Guin says:

    Price [continued],

    The same is true of the metaphor for fire. Any First Century Jew knew that chaff was burned for the purpose of destruction. It was a waste material and so set on fire. The image of fire as a metaphor for God’s wrath is found countless times in the OT. Sodom and Gomorrah. The plague of hail and fire suffered by Egypt (Ex 9). Nadab and Abihu. The complaints of the Israelites (Num 11). Korah’s rebellion (Num 26). And I could go on at great length.

    So not only did John explain the metaphor, it would have been familiar to anyone who’d heard the story of Exodus — among many other stories. The apostles themselves asked Jesus for permission to call fire down upon the Samaritans.

    Again, the Holy Spirit is strange and foreign to many of us, but that’s because we’ve been taught the Spirit as something foreign and strange. To the First Century Jews, the Spirit was to be prayed for (Luk 11:13) because the Spirit had departed from the Jews ever since the Babylonian exile began. Ezekiel is very clear on this, but it was a part of their culture to long for the return of God’s special presence in the Temple and for the Spirit of prophecy. We see this in their literature as well as the common speculations about whether Jesus was “the prophet” promised by Moses, Elijah (promised by Malachi), or even the Messiah. These expectations were in the air. Every Jew knew that God had promised a Messiah and a return of prophecy such as was seen nearly 500 years before. They might disagree about what he would be like or when he would come, but they all knew about the prophecies.

  17. Jay Guin says:

    Price [continued yet again],

    Peter said,

    (Act 11:15-17 ESV) 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

    Not sure that this is Peter finally understanding what Jesus told them about being baptized with the HS. It was Peter finally understanding that the promise extended to uncircumcised Gentiles as well as Jews. It seems likely that the Ethiopian eunuch was a proselyte, or else his conversion would have elicited the same controversy as Cornelius. It’s easy to imagine Peter assuming that Gentiles could be Christians if they first converted to Judaism — up until the Cornelius event.

    Now, JTB portends all this because he denies that being a descendant of Abraham is good enough. He requires baptism of Jews. But he only preached to the Jews and only baptized Jews.

    The prophets speak of the nations being invited in, but again, it would have been easy to assume that the Gentiles would become Jewish Christians, not just Christians.

    So we are astonished in retrospect that Peter didn’t get it, but he was hardly alone. In fact, in Eph 3, Paul describes this as a “mystery” revealed by the gospel —

    (Eph 3:1-6 ESV) For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles– 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

    So I would agree that the Pharisees and even the apostles did not get this until much later — even though we can see in the prophets, the Magnificat, JTB, even Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, that all this was portended. The Jews were blinded to this possibility by national pride in being God’s elect by ethnic inheritance — and they looked down on Gentiles most severely. Gentiles were sinners, fornicators, and idolaters — largely true, by the way — and so they couldn’t imagine the Gentiles being invited in without first becoming Jews.

    Hence, God had to do something amazing to make the point with Cornelius, and even then, the Jewish Christians struggled with the concept.

  18. Jay Guin says:

    Monty and Price,

    Let’s take another look at Peter’s words regarding Cornelius. It’s been argued (by H.Leo Boles) that “baptism with the Holy Spirit” was only received by the apostles (or 120 disciples) in Acts 2 and Cornelius — that this baptism was somehow radically different from the Spirit received at an “ordinary” conversion, which produces only the “ordinary measure” of the Spirit. Of course, it’s hard to see in Acts a difference between the Spirit received by, say, the Ephesians or Samaritans — with tongues and prophecy — and that received by Cornelius — with tongues and prophecy. If there was something different in terms of the “measure” received, what was it?

    Second, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 introduces Christianity. Not only is it about receiving Jesus as Messiah, it’s about receiving the Spirit promised by Joel —

    (Joe 2:28-29 ESV) 28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”

    This is Peter’s first text in his sermon (and used later in Acts and in the Epistles as well), and Joel’s point is that the Spirit in the Messianic age will be poured out on “all flesh.” This outpouring is what happened at Pentecost, according to Peter, but it was not just 120 + Cornelius. This event was for “all flesh.”

    (Act 2:15-16 ESV) 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

    “This” is the outpoured Spirit.

    Peter soon promises,

    (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.
    (Act 2:38 ESV) 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Now, anyone there understood “gift of the Holy Spirit” to be “the promise of the Holy Spirit” received by Jesus from the Father and being poured out — and the same thing promised by Joel and that they saw right in front of their eyes. It’s what Peter SAYS. I don’t know how he could be plainer.

    Therefore, the 3,000 received what was promised them: the outpoured Spirit, which was the baptism with the Spirit promised by JTB. If Boles’ hadn’t come up with his argument (in the interest of cessationism, that is, a Deistic view of the Spirit), this would be obvious.

    Paul agrees,

    (Tit 3:5-6 ESV) 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

    This is exactly parallel with Acts 2:33 and :38 and Joel 2. Paul says that the “ordinary” gift of the Spirit received by every Christian is the Spirit outpoured by God through Jesus (very much in the same terms as Acts 2:33 and Joel 2).

    So a reader of Acts, who’d not been taught Boles’ “measures” of the Spirit speculation would naturally conclude that the 3,000 baptized in Acts 2 received the outpoured Spirit = baptism with the Spirit.

    So what about Cornelius? Well, some more context will help:

    (Act 4:31 ESV) 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness

    The entire congregation was “filled” with the Spirit — a word naturally associated with the pouring of water. When the Spirit is poured out, Jesus’ disciples are “filled” with the Spirit. This same language is found throughout Ephesians with regard to all Christians (Eph 5:18-19 being a prominent and important example).

    Then there’s Saul/Paul —

    (Act 9:17-18 ESV) 17 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.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;

    “Filled with the Holy Spirit” had been used of ordinary Christians up to this point. There’s no reason to assume that Ananias is promising Saul/Paul an apostleship measure. Rather, he was filled with the Spirit just as is true of any convert to Christianity — or else what do we do with —

    (Eph 5:18-21 ESV) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    So now we get to Cornelius —

    (Act 10:39-44 ESV) 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 ¶ While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.

    The Holy Spirit “fell” on those who heard the “word”. What was the “word”? Well, that Jesus “is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead,” that is, Lord and Messiah.

    Why then? Because this is when they came to faith in Jesus.

    Why “fell”? Because the Jews routinely spoke of the Spirit coming down from heaven — by being outpoured.

    Peter later says,

    (Act 11:15 ESV) 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. ”

    “Fell” is simply what water does when it’s poured out from heaven. It falls on people. The same language is used in Acts 8:16 of the Spirit not yet “falling” on the Samaritans even though they’d been baptized. It was expected that those who were baptized would have the Spirit fall upon them, and when it didn’t, the apostles had to come from Jerusalem to remedy the problem — that is, God forced the apostles to endorse Phillip’s work among the Samaritans by refusing to given them the Spirit until the apostles showed up in person.

    Again, notice Luke’s language closely —

    (Act 10:44-45 ESV) While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.

    “Gift of the Holy Spirit” is obviously a reference back to Acts 2:38. Cornelius received the SAME THING promised to the 3,000. Luke is clearly making exactly this point.

    Luke also refers to the Spirit being “poured out even on the Gentiles” — meaning, not just the Jews. Boles wishes Peter to say “even on Cornelius” in contrast to the apostles, but the contrast being made is Jew/Gentile. The Jews — all Jewish Christians — had received the “gift of the Holy Spirit” and “the Holy Spirit … poured out.” This is just so obviously parallel with Acts 2, but to the promises made to Peter’s audience, not just the apostles. Luke is deliberately repeating key phrases from Peter’s sermon to make the point that Cornelius (and his household) received the very same thing as the 3,000 — not just the apostles and not just the 120.

    Peter exclaimed,

    (Act 10:47 ESV) 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

    Who is “we”? Well,

    (Act 10:45-47 ESV) 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

    There were no other apostles there. Just Peter. But he was there with “believers from among the circumcised” — Jewish Christians. They were the “we” in contrast to “even on the Gentiles.”

    To be sure, we should check the rest of the story.

    (Act 11:12-17 ESV) 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

    Peter was either referring to his Christian Jewish traveling party or, more likely, Christian Jews in general in contrast to Gentiles. There is no way he was referring to “the apostles” or “the 120 disciples.” His point is that Cornelius received the same Spirit as the Jewish believers, not that he received the same Spirit as the apostles — or else I suppose he’d be an apostle, too — right?

    To double check this conclusion, check out —

    (Act 15:7-11 ESV) 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

    Plainly, Peter is drawing a contrast between Jewish believers and Gentile believers, not Apostles and Cornelius. The topic of debate was the conversion of Gentiles. Peter’s point is that if Cornelius was saved by grace, having their hearts cleansed by faith, being given (parallel to Acts 2:38 again!) the Holy Spirit just as the Jewish believers, then what is true of Cornelius is true of Gentiles generally.

    If Cornelius has received some special, higher, greater measure of the Spirit from ordinary Jewish believers, this argument would not have made much sense. The point is that Cornelius was given the same gift of the Spirit as EVERY Jewish believer, based on faith in Jesus and God’s grace, not circumcision, and therefore the same is true of all Gentile believers. Cornelius was only exceptional by being first among the Gentiles, not by receiving the same special measure as the apostles.

    Indeed, if the point of Acts 2 is that the apostles received a “baptism with the Spirit” received only by them and by Cornelius, why wasn’t Cornelius empowered to be an apostle? If he only spoke in tongues and prophesied like the Samaritans and Ephesians, then why is his special and theirs ordinary?

    No, the only explanation is the simplest explanation. All Christians receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they are saved. This is the Spirit promised by the prophets to be outpoured by God through the Messiah. It’s the Spirit that falls on Christians. It’s the Spirit that fills Christians. Paul uses Luke’s very same vocabulary to refer to the Spirit received by ordinary Christians. The ordinary gift of the Spirit is the baptism with the Spirit.

    Hence, we either receive the Spirit and are saved or we receive God’s wrath. Fire. Gehenna. Makes sense. Is simple. Fits the text very, very well. Ockham’s Razor.

    The problem with my understanding is that it doesn’t fit well with debates with the Baptists over the moment the Spirit is received — and we’ll just have to learn to live with that.

    Personally, I think Bruner gets it right in his Theology of the Holy Spirit that the 120 disciples, Samaritans, and Cornelius were all exceptions to the normative receipt of the Spirit at the moment of water baptism — in perfect parallel with the command to preach the gospel to the Jews, the Samaritans, and to the world. Each time God gave the Spirit outside the normative practice, he did so to further the reach of the gospel and to push the apostles to the next phase of gospel history. God was willing to break his own normative practice to save more souls. Really.

    That doesn’t mean these are the only possible exceptions, but that these are not normative, that is, how God intends for us to receive the Spirit and to practice our baptism and teaching. Normally, receipt of the Spirit and water baptism are concurrent. But it’s not some law higher than God himself by which God is bound. God is not so limited.

    Thus, there is no need to imagine a divine wallchart of “measures” of the Spirit and rules for who gets what when. Rather, the Spirit, like the wind, blows where he wills. Per 1 Cor 12 and Rom 12, the Spirit gives various kinds of giftedness — charismata — as the Spirit choose. All Christians have the promise/gift of the Spirit. Christians each have differing giftedness. Some are gifted to be apostles. Some teachers. Some encouragers. Etc.

    Thus, I deny cessationism. I see just as much of a miracle in God giving someone the gift of encouragement as the gift of healing. But that requires that we see the world with Spiritual eyes. The Spirit is still promised, still given, and still falling and being outpoured — and giving gifts to those who possess the Spirit.

    The alternative is Deistic. I prefer to believe in a Living God who remains active in human affairs. Hence, I see no need to construct an elaborate, artificial rationalization to deny that the Spirit remains powerfully active in the church today.

  19. Jay Guin says:

    PS — I’ll try to find time to post this in better format as a main post. We’ve cover this before, but it’s been a long time and probably worth repeating. If this is a serious question to the two of you, it’s a serious question for a lot of readers.

  20. Price says:

    Jay, I don’t see the function in receiving the Spirit of the Apostles and the everyday Christian. I do see that the Soorit can empower us all to do whatever He wishes. The fact that they were appointed as Apostles with miraculous powers doesn’t make it any more of the Spirit Himself but only the degree in which one might be empowered. One Lord, Faith, immersion.

    Peter would not be incorrect, IMO, by saying that they received the Spirit just as he and the other Apostles did. You have suggested that the normal means of receiving the Sporit is by faith at the moment of baptism. If that is so, then the normal people that were with Peter would have had the normal experience. However the Apostles didn’t receive the Spirit at baptism and neither did the Cornelius contingent which makes their experience more similar than with the normal people. And one can easily speak of “we” and be referring to another group and experience which would not include present company. I think I’m still of the opinion that we was intended to reflect a comparison between Cornelius and the Apostles. But what do I know

  21. Price says:

    I guess it (Peter’s recollection) on how one reads acts 11:16. IMO when Peter saw Cornelius et al it reminded him of what Jesus had said specifically to them in Acts 1. I don’t think the Jesus’ words to them in Acts 1 were reflective of a greater outreach to the Gentiles. Knowing what we know about Peter it isn’t a stretch to assume it might have taken him some time to catch on. Perhaps.

  22. John F says:

    Actually, Boles took his understanding of “measures of the Spirit” from McGarvey’s commentary on Acts. I have posted on this before, as you may recall Jay: Here is a brief excerpt.

    . . . I don’t see anywhere that the Holy Spirit was given by measure. There is a lot about the gift of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Spirit and the fullness of the Spirit. I tried to find other verses that spoke of “measures of the Spirit”, but I came up empty; nowhere else in the New Testament does it speak of a “measure of the Spirit” or any limits on the Spirit at all, but always the sense of completeness and fullness. How strange that we would create or build an entire doctrine about the gift of the Holy Spirit based on a verse that says the exact opposite of our conclusions. I thought of how I was taught that only Jesus had the “full measure” of the Holy Spirit, so I thought I should look at the “fullness or filling of the Holy Spirit”. Here is what I found (New American Standard Version search):
    “Filled with (Holy) Spirit”
    Luke 1:15 “For he (John the Baptizer) will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb.
    Luke 1:41 And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
    Luke 1:67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
    Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
    Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people,
    Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
    Acts 9:17 And Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
    Acts 13:9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him,
    Acts 13:52 And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
    Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

    So if those verses say something to us, what about verses that talk about being full of the Spirit? Please look at these verses:
    “Full of the Spirit”
    Luke 4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness
    Acts 6:3 “But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.
    Acts 6:5 And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.
    Acts 7:55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he (Stephen) gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;
    Acts 11:24 for he (Barnabas) was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

    Perhaps I had been confused about the difference between the “gift of the Spirit” we received at baptism (Acts 2:38) and the “gifts of the Spirit” in 1Cor.12-14 that were given as the Spirit willed (1Cor.12:11) through Apostolic authority (Acts 8:18). Yes, the apostles authorized by Jesus were enabled by the will of God to impart “some spiritual gift” (Romans 1:11), and yes indeed those apostolic “spiritual gifts” ended when those receiving them died, but there were numbers of believers who were “filled” or “full” of the Holy Spirit who did not receive (from the New Testament record) what we would normally call “the miraculous measure of the Spirit”, among them John the Baptizer, Elizabeth, Mary (mother of Jesus), those present at Acts 4:31, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas. Also, we do not see any record of “gifts of the Spirit” among the household of Cornelius beyond the initial tongues speaking in Acts 10 nor do we see the Apostles of Acts 2 continuing in the gift of tongues. Neither is it certain that every believer had the hands of the Apostles laid upon him or her. What seems to be apparent is the Spirit at work as the Spirit wills. Acts 2:38 does not promise us a partial, limited, measured gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not “and you shall receive the x% gift of the Holy Spirit; no limit or measure is mentioned. It is not that Jesus was given 100%, the Apostles 70%, those who received an Apostolically imparted gift 40%, and us “ordinary” Christians 20% or some other measure. What seems clear is that Jesus had the Holy Spirit in all fullness to accomplish the work that God had for Him to do; the Apostles had the Holy Spirit in all fullness to accomplish the work that God had for them to do; those Apostolically gifted had the Holy Spirit in all fullness to accomplish the work that God had for them to do; we receive through baptism the Holy Spirit in all fullness to accomplish the work God has for us to do. The only difference is the will of God through the Spirit in every situation, whether it is Jesus, the Apostles, Cornelius, those apostolically gifted, or we today. We were all baptized by the Spirit into one body and made to drink of one Spirit (1Cor.12:13) and different gifts were given to different people and at different times and through different means, but the same Spirit, just as God desired (1Cor.12:18).

  23. Price says:

    John F…. thanks for sharing this… I printed it off.. It’s pretty much where I stand for now.. except that I don’t think baptism is required to receive the HS.. too many examples to the contrary but it’s not a big deal.. Any person who has not been baptized but who has received the HS will be lead to the water.. It’s just how we end up.. soaking wet.

  24. Jay Guin says:

    John F,

    We are in agreement.

    BTW, “gift” in Acts 2:38 is dorea (dwrea), while the gifts mentioned in 1 Cor 12 are each a charisma. You can’t help but notice the root word charis = grace. -ma is a noun ending. Charisma is a “grace thing.”

    They are near synonyms in the Greek, but the NT is generally pretty careful to distinguish the two kinds of gifts by using different Greek words. In English, we really don’t have a good way of making the distinction. The closest I can up with is “gift” and “present” as in “birthday present.” The Spirit is a gift that give presents. Something like that. Or maybe “favor,” as in “party favor,” but favors are usually small things, which doesn’t work when it comes to the Spirit.

  25. Jay Guin says:


    The Greek in Acts 11:16 for remember is aorist, passive, indicative. The English is usually rendered in the active voice — Peter remembered — but it’s really Peter was reminded. I can’t think of another passive construction. And that’s what you said.

    The apostles as a group had to be drug into each racial expansion of the gospel. Phillip, the deacon, converted the Ethiopian eunuch. Phillip preached to the Samaritans. The apostles only bothered to leave Jerusalem when the Samaritans failed to receive the Spirit — God’s hand forcing them to endorse this VERY controversial step, even though they’d been told —

    (Act 1:6-8 ESV) So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

    And then, even after the Spirit had fallen on the Samaritans, no one went to the Gentiles until God very nearly had to pick up Peter and sit him down in front of Cornelius. And it was God’s action in granting the Spirit before water baptism that made it easy for Peter to tell his fellow Jewish believers to baptize the Roman soldier.

    God’s work through the Spirit — giving it or withholding it or prompting tongues in Jerusalem on Pentecost — spread the gospel to each next major step. So Peter shouldn’t be given too much credit.

    This is the same Peter who refused to eat with Gentile Christians as described by Paul in Gal 2. He struggled with the transition, even after Cornelius. So whether it was bigotry, or assumption, or not understanding, or waiting on God, we don’t know. But he was hardly a hard-charging leader in the church arguing for the sake of the Gentiles — not until Acts 15, when he led the debate in favor of Gentiles being admitted without circumcision — sounding much like Paul by that time. Peter was indeed slow to do the things he needed to do as an apostle.

    So I agree that Peter was reluctant to go to the Gentiles. He may have entirely forgotten JTB’s prophecy. I agree with your characterization “it reminded him.” I think that’s exactly right.

  26. Jay Guin says:

    John F,

    Thanks for the reminder re McGarvey’s commentary on Acts — which was hugely influential on the 20th Century Churches of Christ — nearly holy writ to many. It’s still available in countless Bible study software packages, being out of copyright and popular in some circles. I have a copy on my hard drive! And something nagged at me in the back of my mind as I credited Boles with that body of doctrine.

  27. Jay Guin says:

    John F,

    I should add that D. A. Carson’s excellent Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14 refers to a source that finds that during the intertestamental period, the Jews spoke of “measures” of the Spirit, the idea being that some prophets had greater measures (more) of the Spirit than others. Hence, an Isaiah had a greater measure of the Spirit than, say, Saul had when he was overcome with ecstatic utterances when chasing David. 1 Sam 19.

    Hence, when John says,

    (Joh 3:33-34 ESV) 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

    This has to be read against that background.

    In rabbinic literature is a statement that throws some light on this: ‘R. Aha said: “Even the Holy spirit resting on the prophets does so by weight [or measure], one prophet speaking one book of prophecy and another speaking two books”’ (Leviticus Rabbah 15:2), i.e. God gave his Spirit by measure to the prophets in accordance with the task he assigned them. If the evangelist is alluding to this sort of teaching, he is saying that God poured out his Spirit upon Jesus in much greater measure than he ever did on the prophets. Because God poured out his Spirit upon Jesus ‘without limit’, he can speak the words of God, and, when he does, those words are completely trustworthy.

    Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 4; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), n.p.

    But the rabbinic saying is more quantitative than qualitative. The rabbis weren’t saying that some can do miracles and some cannot. Rather, some have been given more to say or a longer or more challenging mission. Someone might utter a Spirit-given prophecy and never do so again — such as Mary or Zechariah, JTB’s father, evidently. Or they may have a very long career as a prophet of great power (Isaiah, for example). But the rabbis would have scoffed at an “ordinary” indwelling that does nothing that can be seen by others.

    The NT writers only mention measures in evident contrast to the rabbinic idea about the OT prophets. Jesus was given the Spirit w/o measure, and so was greater than all the prophets.

    But when it comes to comparing NT believers with the Spirit, the comparison is always in terms of charismata — giftedness — not amount or quantity.

    In fact, the NT writers assume that ALL Christians can be “filled” with the Spirit, which seems to mean, have as much Spirit in you as you can possibly hold. They never say “without measure” as to an ordinary Christian, but it would be hard to differentiate being “filled with the Spirit” and having the Spirit “without measure.” They are parallel metaphors.

    Consider in that light —

    (Joh 14:12 ESV) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

    It’s a tough saying, but it fits the language of the text very well. It just doesn’t seem to match our experience. Then again, perhaps we see “greater” in terms of the spectacular — raising from the dead, healing the blind. But Patricus (St. Patrick) converted Ireland to Jesus. Think of the influence of Francis of Assisi on the world. Or the work of Luther. They didn’t raise the dead, but they change the history of the world in ways that ripple through the millennia. So maybe Jesus meant what he said.

    It has also been suggested that what Jesus said about John the Baptist provides a clue: ‘I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matt. 11:11). John was the herald of the kingdom that Jesus brought in, but John himself lived, worked and died before people entered it. In terms of privileges, then, the least in the kingdom were greater than John. If we apply this to the differences between Jesus’ works and those of his disciples, we might say that the disciples’ works were greater than his because they had the privilege of testifying by word and deed to the finished work of Christ, and the fuller coming of the kingdom that it ushered in, whereas Jesus’ ministry prior to his death and resurrection only foreshadowed these things.

    Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 4; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), n.p.

  28. Jay Guin says:

    Price wrote,

    Peter would not be incorrect, IMO, by saying that they received the Spirit just as he and the other Apostles did. You have suggested that the normal means of receiving the Sporit is by faith at the moment of baptism. If that is so, then the normal people that were with Peter would have had the normal experience. However the Apostles didn’t receive the Spirit at baptism and neither did the Cornelius contingent which makes their experience more similar than with the normal people.

    Hmm …

    Yes, Acts 2 and Acts 10 have in common receipt of the Spirit separate from water baptism — which is something an apostle might properly called “baptism with the Spirit.” In fact, if the normative process was water and Spirit, then “baptism” unmodified would refer to water and Spirit, and to distinguish the experience in Acts 10, “baptism with the Spirit” would mean “and without water at the same time.” I can buy that.

    But I can’t buy that this is what JTB meant by saying Jesus would baptize with “Spirit and fire.” In fact, Mark records,

    (Mar 1:5-8 ESV) 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

    Who is “you”? Well, it’s his audience, defined as “all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem.” Now John no more meant “everyone of you” than he meant that they’d all be water baptized. Some refused. Rather, he was saying that the Messiah’s baptism would be with the Spirit.

    What an odd thing to say if he only meant to refer to the 12 apostles (not all present) and Cornelius (not present at all). It seems that he’s promising that the Messiah would offer Spirit baptism to those who repent just as JTB offered water baptism to those who repent. It’s the gift of the Spirit for ordinary and extraordinary Christians.

    In Luke, one could argue that JTB had Pentecost in mind, as Pentecost shows up in the sequel to Luke, Acts. But Mark doesn’t tell the story of Pentecost and doesn’t mention baptism with fire. Just baptism with the Spirit, which could only have been understood in light of the Prophets’ promise of an outpoured Spirit when the Kingdom comes. I mean, absent the OT background, how on earth did John’s hearers understand his preaching?

    Parallel is —

    (Mar 1:14-15 ESV) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

    Mark doesn’t define “gospel” or “kingdom of God.” Jesus had not yet been identified as the Messiah (to most) and he’d not died on the cross, and yet he preached “gospel” and “kingdom.” The only way anyone could have understood the sermon would have been to have know the OT very well. Better than most Christians. Jesus assumed his hearers had a generally sound understanding of those terms.

    If so, then they were familiar with the OT Spirit prophecies. They all go together. And so they would have heard “baptize with the Spirit” to mean “immerse with the Spirit,” meaning they would receive enough Spirit to cover themselves — not just filled but overwhelmed, as in a flood or bath.

    The same “immerse” arguments that we use regarding the mode of water baptism work to demonstrate what a First Century Jew would have heard when John preached “baptism with the Spirit.” Enough Spirit to bury someone — and they buried their dead in a cave in a side of a mountain. It was much more than 6 feet under!

  29. John F says:

    Rqbbi Aha dates to about ad 320 so there may be additional considerations looking back. It is difficult to know how post temple Judaism was influenced by Christianity. Outside my usual realm of study.

    McGarvey just missed it on measures; and many follow his error; it is almost creed in cofC. I have a copy in Chinese; if I ever have occasion to pass it on, it will have an insert about “measures.”

    I guess I should update my Logos system with a few add ons 🙂

  30. Price says:

    @ Jay.. Then what do you suppose was Jesus’ intent when in Acts 1 He told the disciples that unlike John who used water… He would baptize them in the Spirit ? Any theological significance to this parallel ? I wonder to myslef why He would omit water altogether…

  31. rich constant says:

    Read John 16 chapter 16 verse 7 through 15 carefully.
    stop and think about vers 13 also read 1st Corinthians chapter 2Vs 6 through 13.
    then read acts one again chapter 1 what was the Christ talking about to his apostles he was talking about things concerning the kingdom of God.
    This kingdom of God is the new creation after the resurrection.
    for the reconciliation of all things through faithfulness.
    go to 2nd Corinthians 5 vs 16 through 19.
    John baptized with water of repentance that was for Jewish people still under the law and a kingdom that was cursed of God.( I don’t want to forget about the one Gentile guy too I think he was at attached guide that Jesus had dinner with. John mark had a post on that a few weeks ago)
    Repenting to God’s prophet put you back into a right relationship through faith that the father God was bringing about the long-awaited Kingdom that would overcome and make them free, and make sure you you understand what paul is talking about in Romans the fourth chapter. promise given to Abraham through Abraham’S seed that would be the Christ. and those that walk in his steps of faithfulness or the faith of Abraham that type of walk is credited as righteousness or that type of faith is credited as righteousness and why is because they believe the scriptures and are looking for the prophecies to be fulfilled.
    The new covenant relationship does not start fully until the consummation by the Spirit And the resurrection of the the Messiah through the initiation in the new creation by the giving of the Spirit as for told in the profits starting at Jerusalem.

  32. Jay Guin says:

    Price asked,

    Then what do you suppose was Jesus’ intent when in Acts 1 He told the disciples that unlike John who used water… He would baptize them in the Spirit ? Any theological significance to this parallel ? I wonder to myslef why He would omit water altogether…

    That’s a very good question. And it’s not just Acts 1. The promise to baptize with the Spirit is in all four Gospels as well as Acts. Clearly, the apostles saw this as a central promise of Christianity – which is is why Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 begins with a discussion of the outpoured Spirit based on Joel 2. The coming of the Spirit was no incidental or temporary thing. It was a central promise of the Kingdom and Messianic age.

    So why not say “water and Spirit” rather than “Spirit” in contrast to “water”? That is very un-Church of Christ, and yet there are plenty of passages in Acts and the Epistles that clearly associate receipt of the Spirit with water baptism. So it’s more than a little surprising to someone raised in the CoC.

    So my take is that, in the minds of JTB, Jesus, and the Gospel authors, the receipt of the Spirit was of vastly greater significance than water baptism — not that water baptism wasn’t important. It was plainly the standard practice of the early church. But the Spirit was just so much more important.

    After all, prophecy of the outpoured Spirit fills the OT prophecies, whereas water baptism isn’t mentioned at all.

    Moreover, although Jesus baptized briefly — evidently for repentance unto remission of sin like John — he soon left his baptismal ministry and forgave sin with a word — no baptism required. Odd that Jesus would stop baptizing with water and forgive sins simply based on faith if he was building toward a covenant in which baptism would figure as central.

    So we’re plainly being told that water baptism is not central — which is why the Bible says so much more about faith and the Spirit compared to water baptism.

    That does not make the Baptists and Calvinists right on baptism. It just means that we’ve been wrong. We’ve treated God as though he were bounded by higher law — the Law of Baptism — that he must obey just as we must. We refuse to admit that God can save anyone he wishes. He’s not bound to require baptism — and the earlier covenants certainly don’t require it. Nor does the new covenant as described in Jer 31:31ff.

    Just so, when Jesus preaches about the coming Kingdom, not once does he tie the Kingdom to baptism (with John 3:5 being an arguable exception; but even if it’s a reference to baptism, it’s the only one out of countless references to the Kingdom by Jesus. It’s like 100 to 1 in terms of emphasis.)

    For that matter, when Paul does speak of baptism, he does so only after speaking of faith being sufficient to save. Rom 1 – 4 are all about the sufficiency of faith to save — with not a word about baptism. When he finally does get to baptism in Rom 6, his point is that baptism shows us how to live as Christians, not that baptism is God’s saving event.

    (Rom 6:4 ESV) 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

    “Walk in newness of life” is about how we live as saved people. It’s about Christian ethics. After all, the question he’s answering is “Shall we go on sinning?”

    Just so, Gal 2 and 3 are about the sufficiency of faith to save. Only after he makes that point does Paul refer (in just one verse) to baptism —

    (Gal 3:27 ESV) 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

    “For” (gar) explains what was said before —

    (Gal 3:24-26 ESV) 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

    Paul is not contradicting his repeated statements that we are “justified by faith” and freed from the law “now that faith has come.”

    So how does being baptized explain our justification by faith and freedom from law? Because the only prerequisite to baptism was faith. No circumcision or anything was required, just a confession of faith in Jesus. Hence, faith is enough and circumcision is not needed.

    Hence, baptism is a recognition of what God does in response to our faith.

    Notice, baptism takes two — it’s always in the passive voice. It’s always something received. It’s never spoken of as something done by the convert. Rather, it’s acknowledgement of faith.

    It is my view that the Spirit is normally received at water baptism, but the Spirit is God the Spirit — Holy and Divine. THe water is, well, water. And yet we sometimes worship baptism rather than God in Three Persons. We sometimes require faith in baptism as a condition of salvation. We sometimes write books that make baptism the centerpiece of our religion rather than God the Son.

    If we see things this way, then we’re not bothered by the fact that God chose to give the Spirit to Cornelius before he was baptized — or by the fact that Peter insisted that Cornelius be water baptized even though he was already Spirit baptized.

    But if we give the biblical emphasis to the Spirit as compared to water baptism, then these things done disturb our theology. Our theology is God/Jesus/Spirit centered, not baptism centered. It’s about faith, not ritual — even though the ritual is important and intended to be when we normatively receive the Spirit. It’s just that God is not bound by the ritual. God created it to serve his purposes — to visually, tangibly demonstrate the salvation of those with faith — and he’ll not let the ritual get in the way of his purpose for it.

    So when we deny the sufficiency of faith and the Baptists as damned, well, God will be shown true — and he’s repeatedly declared faith to be enough.

  33. John F says:

    There are many things Luke does not record about the post resurrection teaching of Jesus: Acts 1:1-5
    The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. 4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

    Jesus was “speaking of things concerning the kingdom” We do not have even a syllabus of that teaching; but the apostles spent their lives implementing what they were taught. So we have to look at the actions of the early followers; Luke’s purpose is an orderly account, and we should not expect him to repeat things previously established or presented (i.e. baptism). So Luke presents what is new to the discussion — the promised Spirit of John 16 is further clarified. The promise of the Spirit is also the promise of God.

  34. Richard constant says:

    u nfortunately baptism should be normal anyone preaching the gospel of Christ.
    let’s face it… it’s not.
    but I will stress this one thing whoever teaches those things whether it’s a knee jerk reaction 2 works or whether you must be baptized for unto because of the remission of sins and then you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Whatever.
    the god that judges the thoughts and the intent of the heart or Jesus, that preacher teacher organizational structure is going to suffer loss when they have to give account of what they’ve done. of course that includes the social Gospel.
    you have to create relationships.
    credible relationships To the people that you talk to.
    then you can a silly little questions and give answers 2 people that they had quite thought of yet.
    one day JAy
    might tell you about his introduction to me that I gave him.
    I quite honestly don’t remember how long ago that was.
    But I’m pretty sure It head around.
    and it was a simple little question wasn’t it J well enough of that I’m going to close blessings on

  35. Richard constant says:

    If you’d like Jay I’ll ask again if you tell me it’s okay?
    Because it hits every one of the talking points that we’ve been discussing over the last 8 weeks the simple little question and I could even ask it a little bit different okay and really make it difficult unless you hold to the principles of the gospel of God and that’s all I’m going to say.

  36. Monty says:


    More good stuff! Especially in the comment section.

    Peter recounts to the Jewish leadership back in Jerusalem in Acts 11 that as he “began to speak”(technically not the instant he opened his mouth-but certainly he means to convey something like(I hadn’t even worked up a good lather yet) the Holy Spirit fell on them – Cornelius and company- as on “us” at the beginning. Who is the us? If it’s us Jews then there is no need to qualify it with “as in the beginning.” Not unless something happened to the Jews(all the Jews-the 3000 that day) that hadn’t happened to Jewish believers in general post-Pentecost. No, something in the manner it happened jolted Peter’s memory about Pentecost and not the normal sequence of events in every conversion post Pentecost and also not in the Samaria outpouring. What was it? The way it happened or the what of what happened made him think of how the H.S. fell on “us” at the beginning(Pentecost) and nothing had happened like it (whatever it was) until that day in Acts 10. Whatever “it” was, it was uniquely the same as on Pentecost. It’s a fact that every baptized believer receives the promised Holy Spirit -baptized in the Holy Spirit. But that can’t be what “it ” was as to why Peter recalled Pentecost(years earlier). Something happened out of the norm that was the same as at the beginning “on us.” IMO the “us” he is addressing in Jerusalem is either us Apostles or the 120. Why? Because they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit without or pre-baptism(take your pick). Their receiving of the Spirit signified to the crowd that gathered that they were men(women) approved by God. They should listen to them. The baptism of the Spirit only happens to those approved by God whether in the normative sense (post or at baptism) or pre-baptism as in these two special circumstances, which were not “normative.” In the case of the 120 on Pentecost(to save but also to approve and to empower them to speak boldly and giving the crowd motivation to consider them seriously). And then out of the normative sequence for the 2nd time years later-as at Pentecost- at the home of Cornelius to prove without a doubt that Gentiles were approved-given repentance from God. God cleanses every heart by faith for sure, Cornelius and company(were there 120 gathered that day?) hearts were purified by faith, not law keeping(circumcision) just like Jewish conversion to the Way. But what made Peter and his company free to go ahead and baptize with water was God’s undeniable changing the sequencing-making it just like what happened to some, not all, on Pentecost, the receiving of the Holy Spirit outpouring pre-baptism. Acts 8 with the Samaritans was post baptism. In Acts 19 with Paul and the Ephesians it’s post baptism.

    What jolted Peter’s memory of Pentecost was not the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he had seen that before, either with many Jewish conversions, or at least with the Samaritans once hands were laid on them but the sequencing of when the Holy Spirit “fell on them.” It’s why Peter emphasized the timing of the events(But Peter “rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order” unto them…Acts 11:4 God gave them(Cornelius and company) the Holy Spirit pre-baptism, to “bare them witness” that salvation is without becoming a Jew through circumcision. How could they argue otherwise?

  37. Jay Guin says:


    I think we’re in complete agreement.

    The 120 disciples at Pentecost and Cornelius and his household were both “baptisms of the Holy Spirit” not because they received a different measure but because, contrary to normative conversions, the Spirit was received separate from water baptism. Hence, while a normal conversion involves a “baptism” of both water and Spirit, the 120 and Cornelius received baptism with only the Spirit — out of the norm. [It would be cool indeed if Cornelius and his household comprised 120.]

    Often overlooked is that the Samaritans also received the Spirit separate from water baptism. Pentecost was completely without any (recorded) water baptism. The Samaritans were after water baptism. Cornelius was before water baptism. Each was out of the norm and each was to further God’s purpose in extending the gospel — first to the Jews, then the Samaritans, and finally to the Gentiles.

    This is about God through the Spirit moving the gospel to every nation and has nothing to do with “measures” of the Spirit or cessationism — concepts entirely foreign to Acts even if true.

  38. John F says:

    “Often overlooked is that the Samaritans also received the Spirit separate from water baptism. Pentecost was completely without any (recorded) water baptism. The Samaritans were after water baptism”

    If referring to the 12 or 120 yes: charisma expression pre baptism (though I would think many/most/all had been baptized as Jesus ministry had proceeded. Of course baptisms followed the preaching (thus the APPROVED apostolic example for the invitation following preaching (oops, sarcasm font failed to apply),

    In Acts 8 it would seems that the charisma was imparted through the apostle’s hands (thus Simon wanted THAT ability); The dorea (possession) was likely present already post pentecost. (see above comments on “measures”.)

  39. Larry Cheek says:

    I must have missed something, and I really cannot find how these two statements fit the text.
    “Often overlooked is that the Samaritans also received the Spirit separate from water baptism.”
    Where is this record?
    Then the meaning of the second sentence, following the first statement.
    “The Samaritans were after water baptism.”
    It seems to me these two statements are totally opposite of each other.

  40. Price says:

    One of the things I find interesting about the Samaritans of Acts 8 that apparently Philip had baptized was the timing of the receipt of the HS.. Peter in Acts 2 said, according to the most conservative interpretations, that if one is baptized they will receive the HS.. Note that Peter didn’t say “when.” We often get overly energized on the moment of salvation but here God seems to take His time. For what reason we can only speculate.. We just know that they didn’t immediately receive the HS until the Apostle arrived to lay hands on them.. Now….some might argue that they had received the Spirit Himself but not the gifts… However the text says that when “they”.. that is Peter and John laid hands on them they received THE HS.. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. [Act 8:17 ESV]. Perhaps we get way to caught up in timing…but what do I know.

  41. Dwight says:

    Of course they didn’t lay thier hands on them until after they were baptized. And this also argues that we cannot recieve the HS until we have the laying of hands….by who? I think we are merging all things of the HS together into one. When we are baptized we are baptized into Christ and Christ is in us and God is in us, so the HS must be in us as well. This doesn’t mean that we have spiritual gifts, but rather the HS. If faith was the point of salvation apart from batpsim, then we would expect that they recieved the HS before baptism, but the scriptures never go in this direction.
    Let’s forget timing. The whole issue between groups is timing. We should just go in the order that the scriptures go in and forget about the timing of salvation. We may never know the exact timing. All we know is faith must drive repentance and baptism. It is simple and yet we make it complicated. And then we are saved. Faith, repentance and baptism aren’t three seperate plans, but part of the same plan. Even salvation is a sure promise not yet recieved, but real.

  42. Jay Guin says:

    Price and Larry,

    I agree with Price’s analysis. Here are a couple of key verses —

    (Act 8:14-16 ESV) Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

    The “yet” indicates that they expected the HS to have already fallen on the Samaritan converts. They were surprised. As Larry said, baptism was supposed to provide the Holy Spirit, but it did not. God withheld the Spirit for some reason.

    The cure was for the apostles to leave Jerusalem and lay hands on the converts — touching the unclean, hated Samaritans in a way that was highly symbolic in that world. Jews did NOT touch Samaritans. But the apostles not only touched them, but so did God himself, by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.

    Jesus had specifically instructed the apostles to spread the gospel first to the JEws, then to the Samaritans, and then to the Gentiles. But many years later, the apostles were still in Jerusalem. A deacon had converted the Gentiles. The church needed to see the apostles endorse the expansion of the gospel to a hated race of mamzers.

    So the cure for the absence of the Spirit demonstrates what was lacking — the apostles.

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

    Not “gifts from the Holy Spirit” but “the Holy Spirit.” The language of “fallen” parallels the outpouring language of Acts 2 and —

    (Act 10:44 ESV) While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.

    (Act 11:15 ESV) As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.

    — regarding Cornelius, which Peter ties to Pentecost.

    So that’s the record.

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