050 – What Baptism Did You Receive?

In our last Podcast, we met Apollos, an amazing preacher of Christ who had not quite obeyed the Gospel until Priscilla and Aquila were able to identify a doctrinal error which they heard when Apollos preached in the Synagogue at Ephesus. Paul was not with Priscilla and Aquila when this happened. But eventually, he arrives back at Ephesus and apparently, soon after his arrival, we are graced with another fascinating conversion story. It’s in Acts 19.

Acts 19:1-7
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 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. There were about twelve men in all.

So, Paul meets some “disciples.” At first, we might assume these are disciples of Christ but as we read further, we come to understand that, like Apollos, these are actually disciples of John the Baptist, who knew only the baptism of John. They state that explicitly.

What Baptism Did You Receive?

Now, this whole event begs the question, “Why does Paul make this radical jump in the discussion from “What Spirit did you receive?” to, “Then what baptism did you receive?” And, why did he ask this initial question to begin with; it feels a little out of the blue! Let’s think this through. How can we reconcile these two questions? What in the world was Paul thinking?

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049 – The Conversion of Apollos

Apollos learned the truth about Jesus from Pricilla and Aquila.

The next conversions in the book of Acts are the conversions of Cornelius, Lydia and the Philippian Jailer. All three of these were discussed in previous podcasts. Let’s quickly mention them and then move on to the next full blown narrative which deserves full discussion, the conversion of Apollos.

A Quick Review

As a reminder, we are in the middle of the last section of our study about baptism and unlike the anti-baptism arguments which rarely use scriptures that mention baptism, we are focused almost solely on scriptures which use that word. It is difficult to craft a good argument if we avoid the very scriptures which mention the word we are trying to explain.

Our first quick review is the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. We studied this conversion story, in great detail, back in Podcast 031 – Pagans with Spirit. Please go back to that podcast or blog post where the issue of baptism is dealt with thoroughly.

The next conversion in the book of Acts is the conversion of Lydia in Acts 16. There is not much to say about this conversion other than to note that baptism is involved but infants are not. After this, in the same chapter, we read about the conversion of the Philippian Jailer. This is another major conversion story and we dealt with this in Podcast 017 – Anti Baptism Scriptures Part 3. Please review the details of that conversion in that blog post or podcast.

The Conversion of Apollos

Now, we come to the conversion of Apollos. There are two very distinct and separate parts to this story. Let’s dive in.

Acts 18:24-28
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Analysis of the story.

This is quite a story. Apollos is probably a Grecian Jew; the name gives that away. He was very intelligent and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. These of course, would have been the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament. At some point in time, Apollos learned about Jesus. He had been given enough information about Christ to come to a belief that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Apparently, this fired him up enough to begin speaking to people about his discovery. But how do you think that happened? What might have happened to bring Apollos to a point where he became a preacher of Christ?

I suspect the case of Apollos is not an unusual case. John the Baptist preached for quite a while in Judea and the surrounding area. We know he had a pretty good following. All of the people who followed John believed the Christ was eminent and were baptized by John in preparation for that event. Many of these folks would have been around when John declared Jesus as the Christ, “the one who’s sandals he was not worthy to untie.” Some of those same people left John and began following Jesus.

But, not everyone who was a part of John’s ministry was able to stick around and see the complete fulfillment as Christ suffered, died and was resurrected. Apollos may have been one of these transients who did not know the rest of the story. In essence, these people got all fired up and went off half cocked! John proclaimed the Messiah had arrived and that is exactly what they continued doing after they left Judea but before the conclusion of Jesus ministry..

Eventually they would learn the rest of the story. This is the case with Apollos. He is a disciple of John and is about to see the bigger picture.

Regardless of how Apollos came to be in the position he is in, it does leave him with an interesting problem. Apollos is not a Christian! Apollos has not yet obeyed the Gospel. He knew “only” the baptism of John. He did not know about baptism into Christ.

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048 – The Conversion of Saul

The Conversion of Saul – Aelbert Cuyp – Cicra 1646

As we move forward in the Book of Acts, the next conversion we encounter is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. For a time, Saul was the number one persecutor of the church; then God has a little impromptu meeting with him on a dusty Damascus road. As a result, Saul becomes the number one supporter of the church and goes on to write three quarters of the New Testament as the Apostle Paul! If there is any conversion crafted to convince us that even the worst of sinners can repent and become a follower of Jesus, the conversion of Saul should stand as a colossal encouragement. It is possible for anyone to become a Christian.

Saul’s Conversion Cubed

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, from a Biblical perspective, is unique, in that we hear the story of his conversion presented three times. This is helpful when we knit all three of these stories together in order to get a complete composite of the entire event. We can’t read all three rehearsals, that would take too long. Acts 9 is the most complete presentation of the three so we will focus on that, then add anything missing using the other two accounts.

For reference, let me show you where all three of these stories are located in the Bible.

The first time we learn of Saul’s conversion is in Acts Chapter 9, Verses 1-23. In this narrative, Luke, the writer of Acts, tells the story from a third person perspective. He reports things which happened to Paul. Luke spent years with Paul on the various missionary journeys so undoubtedly, he would have been very well acquainted with Paul’s story.

Next, in the book of Acts again, Luke retells the story but this time, it is from Paul’s perspective. Paul is telling the story to other people. This happens in Acts 22 after an aggressive mob is stirred to action in Jerusalem. Paul is arrested but permitted to address the crowd. In this Acts 22 version of the story, Paul recounts almost the entire event of his conversion again but, with some critical variations.

Saul’s third and final conversion story is reported in Acts 26:12-23. During this presentation of his conversion, Paul is, once again, under arrest and is being extradited, eventually to Rome, but has a brief audience with a curious king named, Agrippa. Paul is given complete freedom to speak whatever he wants to Agrippa so he uses his conversion story as a springboard for presenting the Gospel. This version also includes some minor additions to the story which we will review as well.

This is a fun lesson which I use often to help people see the Biblical Plan of Salvation. So, not only are we studying this out together, I wanted to show you how to lead this lesson in the hope you might use it and find it effective. I always begin by saying, “Let’s play a little game!”

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047 – Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch

Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Baptism.
Baptism of the Eunuch – Rembrandt – Circa 1626

Simon the Sorcerer stands as a classic example of a person who fails to truly convert because of the unrepentant pride and arrogance in his heart. Immediately after we witness the washout of Simon, we discover the determination of the Ethiopian Eunuch. God serves up a picture perfect example of how a humble, hungry heart accepts the word of God and obeys it. These two conversion stories stand in immediate succession and in stark contrast. Here’s what happened.

After Philip the Deacon finishes his work in Samaria he is called by an Angel of the Lord and told to head south and find a road which winds through the desert connecting Jerusalem to Gaza. This was a pretty good distance from where he had been working but off he goes in obedience to the angel’s command.

Acts 8:26-31
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

Why Such Great Detail about One Man?

Why do we have so much detail about who this man was, where he was from and what he was doing? For some reason, God thought it important to make sure these tidbits of information made it into the Bible.

Sometimes, I think we read a passage of Scripture, like this one, and skim over it far too quickly. When we don’t spend some time contemplating the details, the story becomes fixed or wooden. Ask some questions and the scripture comes alive!

Did you notice that the man was not going to Jerusalem, he was leaving? He had been to Jerusalem to worship. Does this mean he is a Jew? Not necessarily! Why did he go? Was it a Passover or some other special feast? Is he alone? Would that be safe? Philip is invited to sit with him. Did you know a chariot had seats? I didn’t. What was the day like? Was it hot? Was it cold? What is the attitude of this man? He is quite powerful. Why would he have a complete stranger join him in his chariot? He must have been impressed with Philip’s knowledge of word of God. He seems to be pretty humble.

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044 – Baptism in Mark 16

Mark 16 links salvation to baptism.
Mark 16 links salvation to baptism.

I love the Gospel of Mark. It is penned by John Mark who was the cousin of Barnabas and a sometimes traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. Historians speculate that John Mark was probably more associated with Peter than Paul and as a young man, would have been very close to him back in Jerusalem. For this reason, most of the information in the Gospel of Mark is probably gleaned from the stories Peter told.

Three Important Claims

As Mark’s Gospel closes out in chapter 16, there are some statements made which two different religious movements claim as important proof texts for their doctrines. The Charismatic Movement points to the disciples being told they will be able to do miracles and the pro-baptism groups point to Jesus comments about baptism.

Both groups bump into a road block when they turn to these scriptures because scholars do not believe this portion of Mark was ever in the original texts. They believe it was added later. Using this claim, their detractors dismiss any doctrinal conclusions which may spring from this neighborhood by diminishing the validity of this section of scripture. Take a look at your Bible and notice that Mark 16:9-20 has a seemingly ominous warning… “The two most reliable early manuscripts do not contain Mark 16:9-20.”

If we are having a discussion about the miraculous gifts of the Spirit or water baptism and someone wants question the authenticity of this passage of scripture, there is really no point in using it in the debate. In fact, it is probably better to just drop it and move on. So, that’s what we are going to do here at A Faith that Obeys. Let’s not add this particular scripture to our growing collection of scriptures which demonstrate the Biblical requirement of baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of e ternal life.

We will not use it!

But, you really should at least be familiar with the arguments… so let’s dive in.

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042 – 1 Peter 3:18-22

The Flood wiped away all the sin in the world. Baptism does the same thing.
Noah’s Ark (1846), Edward Hicks.

Here is our next scripture which speaks specifically about baptism using that word and even references water as integral in the process. It’s 1 Peter 3:18 and following.

1 Peter 3:18-22
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand–with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Let’s start with the Gospel Message!

When Peter begins teaching us about water baptism, he begins in a really great place. He begins by reminding us about the Gospel. Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous or the unrighteous to bring us to God. That’s awesome. He leaves no doubt in our minds regarding Jesus sacrifice for us and he does it in a succinct and thorough manner. He’s almost poetic and lyrical in his presentation of the Gospel!

Next, he says something curious. He tells us Christ was made alive by the Spirit and it is through this Spirit he goes and preaches to “the spirits in prison.” Which spirits are those? They are the spirits “who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

Wow, that would have been a very long time ago! We don’t know exactly who these spirits were and there is tons of speculation we might offer but when we think of the who, what, when, where, how and why, we have most of it locked down. We just don’t know specifically why Jesus went and preached. Now, regarding these spirits there is one thing we know for sure… we do know they had been disobedient! Also, with certainty, we know their time in history. They were from a time during the construction of Noah’s Ark.

Then suddenly, Noah’s Ark becomes the central figure in Peter’s lesson. He goes on to explain… “In it, only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.”

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025 – Baptism is Like Circumcision?

Baptism is not like circumcision!
Baptism is NOT like circumcision!

Another common claim the evangelical community makes in rejecting the requirement of obedience for salvation is the assertion that baptism is like circumcision, it is a work of human effort.

Three Passages to Evaluate

Let’s carefully examine three passages of scripture commonly used to demonstrate that circumcision and baptism are related and both are works. The general argument may be summed up like this: “Old Testament circumcision is a foreshadowing of New Testament baptism. It is a symbol of one’s obedience to God’s commands but it is only a symbol. Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised and so are we the instant we put our faith in Christ. Baptism, like circumcision is simply a sign and symbol of our salvation.”

Here’s the first support passage. It is in Galatians. In it, we learn that circumcision has no value for the Christian because it is a work and that faith is the only thing which is important.

Galatians 5:6
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Let’s put everything in context. In Galatians, we are talking about physical circumcisions as practiced under the Old Covenant. Jews were required to obey that command and it was performed on infant males the eighth day after birth. When we erroneously compare baptism to circumcision, we get a glimpse of how the church might have begun the practice of infant baptism. When one equates Old Testament requirements with New Testament requirements some strange things can happen.

Paul tells us circumcision is of no value, it is worthless. There is only thing which is important: “faith expressing itself through love.”

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014 – We are Saved by Faith Alone

An Erroneous Claim

We are not saved by faith alone.

The evangelical world claims, “Salvation is by Faith Alone.” This statement is oft’ times invoked when arguing that baptism is not necessary for salvation. As this anti-baptism position has grown and flourished in modern evangelicalism, it developed its own unique language and phraseology. Grammar, in any discussion is important. But there is an amazing aspect to language and grammar you may not be aware of.

The Power of Language

A common language is the glue which holds like-minded believers together. A common language has amazing power! Think about the Biblical examples of the Tower of Babel and the Day of Pentecost; language played a stunningly powerful role in uniting people. 

In the evangelical world’s vernacular, three common phrases come to mind which are frequently used to articulate and argue the position that water baptism has nothing to do with the salvation experience, meaning the remission of sin. The first phrase is, “We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” A second phrase is similar… just a shortened version of the previous phrase… “We are saved by faith alone.” In our last podcast, I mentioned the third phrase, “We are saved by grace, through faith, plus nothing.”

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013 – Baptism is a Work!

Baptism is not a work. It can't be because it is a command.

As you know, there are two proponents in the argument about whether baptism is necessary for salvation. One camp argues that baptism is necessary for salvation and the other camp argues that it is not. Both camps have well thought out reasons for their positions. In my view, the most common objection to water baptism for the remission of sin seems to be the belief that baptism is a work of man… in other words… it is a human work and as such, can have nothing to do with salvation. This is a widely held belief in the evangelical world, so when the debate comes up… it is primarily to this objection the argument turns as a defense… baptism is a work.

Easy to Spot

You can spot this defensive position referenced when you hear a preacher use the familiar phrase, “We are saved by grace through faith plus nothing.” This, and other similar phrases, are commonly called upon when arguing against baptism for the remission of sin… this is what the, “plus nothing” phrase is referencing. The “nothing” they are referring to is typically baptism.

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012 – The Proponents

Photo by Peter Dargatzl on Pixabay

The issue of whether baptism is necessary for salvation is really not about baptism at all. The issue we are dealing with is whether or not a person is willing to obey the Gospel, which just happens to included baptism. Let’s talk, for a few minutes, about this age old argument and see if we might be able to make a little progress.

In order to define and understand the arguments, it may help to know a little bit about the proponents.

Two Groups

The first group are those who believe that water baptism is not necessary for salvation. They say baptism has absolutely no connection to the remission of sin.

This would be the position of most of the evangelical world today. Their position states that when someone makes a heartfelt and sincere commitment to Jesus Christ, sins are forgiven and we are saved. This salvation experience happens at some point in time before water baptism. Many of these same people are baptized later… but not for the forgiveness of sins.

In the other camp, are those people who believe that baptism IS necessary for salvation and it has an incontrovertible connection to the forgiveness of sins. They teach that someone who is not baptized is not saved. They believe that baptism is the exact point in time salvation occurs.

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