This is day 2 of my one year (or less) journey through Scripture. I decided to start where I was (right smack-dab in the middle of acts). Read the first post here, and come along on the journey with me.
What becoming a Christian looks like
What I’m going to say today will likely make some people upset. I don’t mean to. I’m going to rock some boats. Sometimes, that’s okay. What I’m going to say today is straight from Scripture, and so it will be fair game for a really great discussion.
For the first Christians, part of becoming a Christian was baptism. It was inseparable from the beginning of the Christian life.
There are lots of things I can point to, and I intend to keep these daily posts short. Maybe another day.
Today, I’ll just put a rock in your shoe, and deal JUST with what I read this morning.
14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia…who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, . . .
Lydia was a worshipper of God (this is a term typically used for a gentile convert to Judaism), and yet, still needed to hear what the apostles had to say.
God opened her heart to hear the Gospel message, and the next sentence begins with her and her household being baptized. When she believed in Jesus, she was immediately baptized.
Later in that same chapter, Paul and Silas are jailed in Philippi. They spend all night worshiping and are jostled at midnight by an earthquake that shakes the foundations of the prison and releases their chains. I don’t know about you, but I would count that as God’s provision of an escape route.
But they stay. To witness to the jailer.
In fear of what would happen to a jailer that lost his entire group of prisoners, the jailer prepared to kill himself. He was stopped by Paul, who made clear to him that no one left, even though they could have.
Here’s what happens next:
29 The jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to hom and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family . . . .
Lots here to pick through. Here’s the bottom line though. The apostles didn’t tell him, “accept Jesus as your Lord and savior by saying this prayer…” And when they said “believe,” he didn’t respond by just saying, “ok, I believe.”
Rather, what happened was they went to his house and preached the gospel. What was the result of this? The whole family believed, and then “he was baptized at once, he and his whole family.”
Moving on, to chapter 18. Here, in the famous “tent-making” period of Paul’s missionary travels, we read:
8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.”
They believed, and they were baptized. The two, again, work hand-in-hand.
And then there’s Apollos
Later in that chapter, in verse 24, we meet Apollos. He was “eloquent,” and “competent in the Scriptures” (18:24). He had been “instructed in the way of the Lord,” and was “Fervent in Spirit” (v. 25). He even “spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus” (v. 25b).
But the record here mentions one thing against him.
25 . . . though he knew only the Baptism of John.
In verses 26-28 we find that the believers were happy to have him come along. He was an effective teacher. He clearly loved the Lord. He clearly knew whom Jesus was, because he “powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”
Apollos was a sharp, charismatic dude. He believed in Jesus. But the apostles still seemed to think that something was missing. In chapter 19 the story continues:
2 [Paul] said to [the disciples Apollos had been teaching], “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus,” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
Here is where I may lose you. Stick with me.
Apollos was a good teacher. Check.
He was a believer. Check.
He knew his Bible and could use it effectively. Check.
Devoted to evangelism for Jesus. Check.
And yet, something MAJOR was missing. This was the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that sanctifies us. The Holy Spirit who is our advocate before God our Judge. The Holy Spirit who seals us for salvation and assures our hearts that we are adopted as sons and daughters of God.
Missed that one.
He was leading believers (yes, genuine believers. The Bible even calls them disciples in v. 1) to a right understanding of who God is, and they did not receive the Holy Spirit. And Paul didn’t come and simply correct their teaching, and correct their notions, and correct their theological theories.
He did all that and then he baptized them into the name of Jesus.
He separates the baptism of John (described here as an outward symbol of inward repentance) from the baptism of Jesus. And he doesn’t just do it in theory. He actually baptizes them.
The reception of the Holy Spirit that Apollos was neglecting in his ministry was tied to an anaemic understanding of Christian baptism.
I could continue, but I won’t today.
These are just from the four chapters I read today. I promise, I will write more on this subject in the future. But for now, let me encourage you with this:
If you call yourself a believer, and have not made the decision to be baptized, it is a blessing that you will not regret.
It’s part of the great commission, “Go into all the nations, baptizing them…,” and it is here shown to be an integral and inseparable