Monday, June 15, 2009

semi-unaswered questions

For the past several weeks I have been reading the book of Acts. My initial reason for re-reading Acts was to remind me of how the Early Church started; but instead of focusing on that, I was drawn to the Holy Spirit. Now, my purpose for writing this post is not to confuse anyone, instead my intention is to hopefully talk things through for myself. And if anyone has any Holy Spirit inspired feed-back to share, I would be grateful.

You see, I've been perplexed about something. It started with some verses in chapter 8. I read about some people in Samaria who heard Phillip preaching the good news. They believed and were baptized. Later, Peter and John go to see them and realize that the people had not yet received the Holy Spirit; they had "simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:16). Then in verse 17, Peter and John placed their hands on them and THEN "they received the Holy Spirit". This is also mentioned in Acts 19 verse 12 in Ephesus. Paul asks some, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit WHEN you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." Well, I found these verses curious, because back in Acts 2 verse 38 I remembered reading "Then Peter said unto them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." So, why is it that the Samarians in chapter 8 believed and were baptized did NOT receive the Holy Spirit? After weeks of reading, re-reading, doing word searches, and praying - I STILL DON'T KNOW. The only thing that I think might be the answer is in Acts 19. In this chapter, Paul asks some Ephesian believers if they received the Holy Spirit WHEN they believed. The Ephesians answered the same way the Samarians did in chapter 8. They said that they "had not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit". Paul then asks them what baptism they received. They replied that it was John's. Paul explains to them that the baptism of John was one of repentance and that they needed to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. So, they were baptized in the name of Jesus. Paul places his hands on them and then they receive Holy Spirit. After which they spoke in tongues and prophesied. What I gathered from this is that some times people hear the Word and are convicted, but they still might not completely understand what they're feeling and doing. So maybe the people of Samaria and Ephesus in these verses were like that and just needed to hear the message from someone different before they completely understood and then could genuinely believe and be baptized. Again, I really don't know.

Another thing I thought while reading about the Holy Spirit in Acts is that I can understand how some denominations believe that the Holy Spirit can only be obtained through the laying on of hands, because in many cases in this book that's exactly what happened (Acts 8, Acts 9:17, Acts 19). However there are also verses that clearly state that the Holy Spirit is received through repentance/belief (Acts 2:38-39, Acts 10:47, Acts 11:15).

Well, there you have it. My semi-unanswered questions with regard to the Holy Spirit. I do not doubt my God at all just because my little brain can't comprehend every detail. I trust that He will reveal to me in His perfect timing what I need to know and understand. I'm thankful for His Word and for the Holy Spirit in my life.


Caryn said...

I believe that those John baptized were receiving a baptism of repentance, because Jesus had not yet died for their sins and the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. It was given after Jesus had gone up into heaven to be with the Father. Those who were baptized before this time did truly believe, but the Holy Spirit's promise had not yet been fulfilled in them.

Terry said...

I agree with Caryn's understanding of the situation in Acts 19.

However, Acts 8 is a little more confusing to me. The new believers were given the Holy Spirit after they believed and were baptized. However, it was not immediate. I'm not sure why the delay occured, but ultimately God fulfilled his promise to them. Eventually, they received the Holy Spirit. It would not be the first time that I did not understand God's timing, but like you, I'll keep on trusting God to work things out even when I don't fully understand.