Counsel To Serious Seekers For Blessings
THE HOPE OF MAN BY THE GOOD OF THE SPIRIT
Some Meditations On Acts 19
By R. L. DeWitt
In his travels, the Apostle Paul found some souls who had heard of the hope of Heaven, and were at least disciples (followers) after that way. He asked some of them about the new life by the Holy Spirit in Christ (Acts 19:1-5), and found them to be seekers in need of the spiritual NEW BIRTH (as John 3:3-16 shows). They were honest and faithful in what they knew, and were not yet BAPTIZED UNTO THE TRUTH OF CHRIST (Acts 19: 2-5), and did not yet KNOW the One in whom they needed to follow. Many seekers after God today are as that and do not possess the Savior -- Jesus, the Christ of God (Luke 9:20).
We should understand that religious desire in baptism does NOT save the soul, but is perhaps acknowledging the Christ of God and brings one into the sphere of spiritual honesty, as taking a first step of obedience and honesty before God. BAPTISM SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD AT LEAST AS TAKING A STAND WITH THE CHRIST OF GOD against the unbelieving world ---else it has no value; and it is acting faithfully on the exercise of the soul. One needs to consider if they are sincere in wanting to KNOW the Lord Jesus. Failure to be baptized will NOT prevent salvation of the soul, but it will be failure and a hindrance and dishonor to the Lord, for not showing and confessing Him publicly. ONLY RECEIVING THE LORD JESUS INTO ONE'S HEART WILL BRING THE NEW LIFE BY THE INDELLING HOLY SPIRIT (verse 4), who will seal that true believer as a "child of God"; and then one needs to be baptized in the NAME of the Lord Jesus, the Christ of God.
Let us consider this event and make an application for today. Readers are encouraged to read this chapter prayerfully, asking God to teach them, for God speaks through His Word. There are those today who are sincere professors of the Christ---having been quickened (awakened) by the Spirit, and are trying to be faithful followers of His teachings. That is a good beginning. They may have been baptized unto Christ (which all sincere believers are requested to do), but they may not YET know Him ---whom to KNOW is life eternal (see John 17). This is by faith and the power of God's Holy Spirit now dwelling in one.
One cannot know the Lord and follow closely and faithfully, if they do not have the SPIRITUAL NEW LIFE by the Holy Spirit within. They are not born of God and thus not yet "children of God". The Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Ye (all mankind) must be born again" (John 3:3)---but man cannot give himself birth. The flesh is weak and cannot discern the things of God, and Satan will also work to keep one from knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. One must be determined, for salvation comes from an EARNEST exercise of soul, and that by the working of the Spirit to enlighten one (note ROM. 10:8-10 which is essential). In the things of God the exhortation is always to read and pray earnestly. This is the responsibility of every sincere seeker. This is the work of all who will be a real disciple (see John 6:28-29 which speaks of Jesus, the Christ of God as our hope).
Now we see in verse six of Acts 19 that St. Paul, as an Apostle, could perceive the sincerity and readiness of some to receive Christ, and had the SPECIAL authority and gift of God to call down blessing. God was pleased then to impart the Holy Spirit to them. They received gifts of God to discern things and serve Him, but the greatest gift was the presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit for sealing and eternal life. In Ephesus Paul found many who had other religious works, so rejected the hope and blessings of the Creator-God.
St. Paul began his ministry by ministering to the Jews, for whom he had a love, but in time he recognized his calling was more to the Gentiles, while St. Peter had a special calling to scattered Jews. Many miracles were wrought by Paul (as with all the Apostles), and these were to magnify the Lord and bring many to hear the Word that was preached. As noted, the gospel was perceived as a threat to the livelihood and religious traditions of the Jews, and so blinded the people there in Ephesus to receive the truth (even as today worldwide). The real threat to man is going on without the mercy and blessings God wants to give as found in His Son.
The hope of mankind is surely Christ, whether they appreciate it or not; and being awakened to God and hearing words of truth, they NEED to respond in faith, devotion, and appropriate the goodness of God---or else will go on in spiritual poverty to a lost eternity. - RLD: RG18; 11/08.