THE “PENTECOSTAL” EXPERIENCE CONTINUES

On the great Day of Pentecost, God chose 120 men and women to fill with the Holy Spirit and then He scattered them all over the known world. The Spirit fell on that group of believers just as Jesus, and even the prophets, had said He would. In a master stroke of irony, the Spirit fell in the very city that rejected Jesus! Thanks to the indwelling of the Spirit, the church grew in leaps and bounds in those early days, often with thousands of converts joining after hearing a single sermon. It was the Holy Spirit that emboldened and empowered those early Christians and the result was nothing less than extraordinary.

The modern church faces a tremendous challenge and opportunity. All Christian denominations pay lip service to the Holy Spirit, and a lot of them don’t recognize what He can do for them beyond conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit is just as real today as He was back in New Testament days. There may have been only one “Day of Pentecost,” where He fell in such a dramatic way, but God still wants His people to have there own “pentecostal” experience with His Spirit. Certainly every single believer is filled with the Holy Spirit. But there is a further experience some believers never get to. This experience, which some call “the baptism in/of the Holy Spirit,” comes to those who seek a deeper walk and relationship with God. Just as those 120 were seeking God and praying in that Upper Room, so we, too, must seek God with purpose and determination. When we do that, God will meet us and we will experience His presence and power in our lives like never before.

1. New converts receive the Spirit, Acts 8:5—17

The Samaritan Crusade, verses 5—8

Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. (vs. 5)

Here is the second deacon used by God in a wonderful way, and we see the Church growing exactly as Jesus had said it would: beginning in Jerusalem, then reaching Samaria. What drove Philip to a city in Samaria was persecution back in Jerusalem. Had those believers in Jerusalem not faced certain doom, some scholars think they would have never left. God took a bad thing—persecution—and used it for something very good: to spread the Gospel.  These lay preachers that left Jerusalem took the Word of God everywhere they went:

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (vs. 4)

The word translated “preached” is euangelizo, one of Luke’s favorite words. It means “to announce good news,” and surely the Gospel is the best of all news. These first century missionaries didn’t walk around worrying about the persecution back home, they talked about the risen the Christ to anybody who would listen to them!

Samaria was the name of the capital city of the old Northern Kingdom of Israel, and Samaira proper was rebuilt by Herod the Great and renamed “Augustus,” although according to Josephus this city was often referred to as “Samaria” by the Jews. To these Samaritans, Philip “proclaimed” Christ. The verb is in the imperfect, meaning preaching Christ was all Philip did; he did nothing else while he was there. Like the Jews, the Samaritans were looking for “the Christ” to come.

Philip’s preaching was accompanied by great manifestations of the supernatural. These miraculous signs seemed to be quite common during the early days of the Church’s expansion. Why was this so? The Gospel was first preached among the Jews, and their distant relatives, the Samaritans, but later on the Gospel broke out of the Jewish world to penetrate the Greek world. Of these two cultures, Paul made this observation:

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom… (1 Corinthians 1:22)

The Jews (and Samaritans) needed those “signs and wonders,” and God met their need. But the Greeks weren’t looking for the miraculous; they were the philosophers and the educated, and what they needed was good teaching. God met their need through the apostle Paul’s towering intellect.

The Sorcerer’s Encounter, verses 9—13

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great… (vs. 9)

Simon the sorcerer was also known as “Simon Magus.” Justin Martyr, also a Samaritan, wrote that Simon Magus was famous among the Samaritans of his day and greatly respected and revered. In fact, some Samaritans regarded Simon as a “god!” As the Gospel advanced in Samaritan, Simon Magus believed and was baptized.

Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. (vs. 13)

In light of verses 18 and 19, a great many Bible scholars conclude that Simon was more impressed with the man Philip and his apparent power than with God. Simon was the very first “religious racketeer”; a man who thought he could make a buck peddling miracles. It seems that Simon already had some kind “power” which caused people to follow him. This brings us to an interesting point: can unbelievers work “signs and wonders?” The answer must be “yes.” Consider these verses:

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. (Matthew 24:24)

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:13—15)

The Spirit Received, verses 14—17

Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (vs. 17)

When the apostles who stayed in Jerusalem heard about this Samaritan revival, they had to go and check it out. What they found there were many genuine believers—true converts to Christ—who had been baptized but not filled with the Holy Spirit. These new Christians had not yet had their own “personal pentecost.” Clearly, as far as the apostles were concerned, all Christians needed to have an experience with God the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion.

Verse 17 declares that when Peter and John laid hands on them and prayed, these new Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit. While some scholars teach that they received certain gifts of the Spirit, this is not what the text says. The Samaritans were filled with the Holy Spirit after their conversion. This incident in Samaritan is very significant because it shows us that at some point after conversion, a Christian may receive another experience: the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

2. Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit, Acts 10:44—48; 11:15—18

A new chapter, 10:44—48

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. (vs. 44)

As chapter 10 begins, we meet a man named Cornelius, a Gentile who believed in God and had heard about Jesus Christ. He was not a Christian yet, but well on his way. God, working as only He can, was busy: God told Cornelius to send for Peter and God told Peter to go and see Cornelius.

When Peter began preaching at Cornelius’ house, the Gentiles started believing then the Holy Spirit fell on all where were listening to the sermon. The Greek suggests that the Spirit came upon the people when Peter said this:

...everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (vs. 43)

At that moment, when the people heard the essence of what salvation involves, it was as though the water broke through the dam, flooding the valley! This outburst of the Spirit’s power filled the people—they manifested one of the gifts, tongues—and this astonished Peter and the six Jewish Jewish believers gathered there.

Later on, at the Jerusalem Council, Peter compared what happened to Cornelius and those in his house—a “Gentile Pentecost”—to the first Pentecost:

God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:8—9)

Notice that they received the Holy Spirit and God “purified their hearts by faith.” Not only do we see another pentecostal experience, but we also have a good example of what is known as “entire sanctification.” These folks found Jesus as their Lord and Savior, He cleansed their hearts, and Holy Spirit came in like a flood.

Another problem, Acts 11:15—18

This was new. Things were getting out of control. The “mother church” back in Jerusalem had been hearing all about these moves of God among the Gentiles. To these Jewish-Christians, God was doing a new thing. A church-wide meeting was called to discuss what God was doing. Peter, defending what God was doing in the Gentile world, concluded his dissertation:

So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God? (vs. 17)

Indeed, there is no good answer to that question. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is difficult to explain and understand, but that doesn’t make it any less real than other things God is doing. We accept all of God’s gifts by faith, not always fully comprehending them.

3. Disciples receive the Spirit, Acts 19:1—7

This incident opens Paul’s third missionary journey, and it’s such a curious incident that we wish Luke had supplied more details. In his Gospel, Luke tells us that John the Baptist began his ministry in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3), and within a short period of time he was arrested and eventually beheaded (Matthew 14). With the rise of the ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist’s ended. And yet, here in Acts 19, some three decades after the Baptist’s death, we find a group of people baptized with John’s baptism, whom Luke refers to as “disciples.”

A new doctrine, vs. 1—4

Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (vs. 2)

It’s impossible to know exactly who these disciples were or where they came from, but one thing is certain: they were genuine Christians; they were born again.

The whole passage indicates that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a “second work of grace.”

When asked about the Holy Spirit, these believers indicated that they had never heard about a Holy Spirit. Now, they probably did know about a “Holy Spirit,” especially since John the Baptist talked about the Holy Spirit, and they were his disciples. Apparently they had heard about the Messiah and accepted Him, but they had not heard about what happened in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. They must have been a small, isolated group of Christians.

So this doctrine of the Holy Spirit living in Christians after their salvation was a new doctrine to this group of Christians, and it was up to Paul to explain it to them.

A new baptism, vs. 5—7

Here is unquestionable proof that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is most definitely a second work of grace.

On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (vs. 5, 6)

There two distinct movements here: they were (1) baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus; (2) they were filled with the Holy Spirit. As an evidence of their receiving the baptism of the Spirit, this group of Christians, like others before them, manifested some gifts: tongues and prophecy.

The power of the “pentecostal experience” was not confined to what happened to the 120 on the Day of Pentecost. As we read through the book of Acts, we see an undeniable pattern: one believes in Jesus Christ and Lord and Savior, then one receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Until that second work of grace happens, a believer does not function in the fullness of the gifts. When the Spirit is received in His entirety, the Christian will undoubtedly manifest some gift or gifts of the Spirit.

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